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Three Ethics Questions for Vince Sheheen…

Today we saw, for the first time, Senator Vince Sheheen chime in on the conversation that Governor Haley, the rest of the General Assembly, the press, and the state of South Carolina as a whole have been having for months.

In truth, we appreciate Senator Sheheen’s belated involvement in this process, as we both hope and expect it means that he, as the self-desired leader of the Democratic Party, will be able to deliver to votes of his Senate Democratic colleagues on the final passage of an ethics reform bill this year – something that is far more important to the State of South Carolina than any political agenda.

However, since we have heard nothing from the good Senator until this morning, there are a couple of provisions in the indisputably non-partisan, non-ideological report on ethics reform released by the McMaster-Medlock Commission that would directly affect Vince Sheehen, one of South Carolina’s most prominent lawyer-legislators.

And being that he’s now decided to weigh in on ethics reform, we think the public would like to know what he thinks about the following recommendations:

Recommendation #4: Current law does not prevent lawyer-legislators from “influencing in any way” the appointment process for members of a state agency, commission board, department or other entity if that lawyer-legislator represents a client for a fee before that entity.   The McMaster-Medlock commission has recommended making such influence prohibited at every level.

Question #1: Does Senator Sheheen believe that current law, which allows a lawyer-legislator like himself to participate in the subcommittee and committee process of appointing someone that that legislator may later appear in front of as well as allowing that legislator to directly try to influence a Senate colleague’s vote on the appointment – is sufficient?  Would he support outlawing the current practice of lawyer-legislators like himself influencing the appointment process at all stages save the final vote?

Recommendation #5: Current law only prohibits lawyer-legislators from represent clients before state entities they have voted to place a member sitting on that entity for 12 months after that vote.  The McMaster-Medlock commission has recommended extending the 12 month ban to 24 months.

Question #2: Does Senator Sheheen believe that a lawyer-legislator like himself should be able to represent clients in front of individuals they have voted for after a “cooling-off” period of merely one year, or should that prohibition be extended to two years?

Recommendation #7: Current law requires lawyer-legislators to disclose income they earn by appearing before a state entity, but not when the state is the opposing party.  The McMaster-Medlock Commission has recommended that the reporting requirements be expanded to include fees to themselves or their firms for handling cases where the state of South Carolina or a state agency is the opposing party.

Question #3: Does Senator Sheheen believe that a lawyer-legislator like himself should have to report the money he derives from suing the State of South Carolina or her agencies, or does he believe that as is current law, the public has no right to know how much legislators like him are profiting from suing South Carolina?