South Carolinians should be grateful for any signs that officials mean what they say about reforming the state's weak ethics laws.
Whether Gov. Nikki Haley is motivated by her own ethics problems, political grandstanding or a true zeal for reform, we welcome her push for stronger rules. But we'll hold the applause until we see the final product from lawmakers.
And if we get laws that bring more information to the public, curb potentially bad behavior by officials and ensure that wrongdoing is called out and dealt with in an open and fair way, we can also thank attorney John Rainey and his dogged pursuit of alleged wrongdoing by Haley as a member of the House. His lawsuit is now headed to the state Supreme Court after Haley was cleared by the House Ethics Committee.
Among the items in Haley's package of reforms is doing away with the Senate and House ethics panels and turning over their work to the state Ethics Commission. Particularly interesting was her comment Wednesday that lawmakers' handling complaints about other lawmakers is like "the fox guarding the henhouse." Given her recent experience, she speaks with some authority.
The political potshots that followed Haley's and Attorney General Alan Wilson's tour Wednesday to promote the reforms package, especially from House Speaker Bobby Harrell, is not all that surprising. It illustrates the sour relationship between the legislature and Haley.
Key lawmakers already have been working on ethics reforms this summer. Haley might be trying to jump on their bandwagon, but if it's headed in the right direction and her efforts help get the job done, lawmakers should welcome her support. And we fully recognize that Haley has taken advantage of some of the laws she now says she wants to change.
Her plan also calls for:
Wilson wants to set up a public integrity unit to investigate, not rule on, ethics complaints. He said that such a body would prevent duplicate investigations by different agencies. If it is truly independent, gets at the truth of what's going on and the public is apprised of its work, we support it.
Those changes are a start, but only a start. We'd also like to see lawmakers:
John Crangle of Common Cause says lawmakers also should tackle campaign finance reform.
In the end, it doesn't matter who gets credit as long as the work gets done and the end product means something.