SC House ethics panel advises all caucuses will operate under same set of rules
The S.C. House Ethics Committee has advised the chamber’s 124 members that going forward all member-caucuses will play by the same rules, leaving unanswered whether lawmakers will try next year to tweak the state’s ethics laws.
The committee’s action follows a successful lawsuit by the S.C. House Freedom Caucus, a group of 18 ultra-conservative members, who claimed that the current law restricted their ability to fundraise and staff in the same manner as the House’s four major caucuses: Republican, Democratic, Black and women’s caucuses.
U.S. District Court Judge Cameron Currie ruled over the summer that all caucuses must adhere to the same rules regarding donations from lobbyists, election activities and record keeping. Her decision includes all Senate caucuses.
House Ethics Committee Chairman Rep. Jay Jordan said Tuesday, that in light of the court ruling, so-called special interest caucuses can now operate similar to traditional caucuses.
“This is the only option we have right this minute,” Jordan, R-Florence, said. “We’re not in session. We’re not able to file anything, hold hearings or pass anything. So this had to be done at least for right now.”
Jordan added, however, that at some point the Legislature will have to revisit the ethics laws as they pertain to member-caucuses.
“Everyone has an opinion on how we can improve our ethics laws,” he said. “So I think someone, or some group will grab hold of this and say this is an issue we need to tackle.”