It’s beginning to seem that South Carolina’s biggest cash crop is embarrassment. If it’s not the school system, it’s being the 43rd healthiest state, number 3 in gonorrhea, top ten in the number of people below the poverty rate, 4th highest infant death rate, etc. But, clearly, the state is getting its greatest notoriety for its politicians.
Earle Morris, Thomas Ravenel, Operation Lost Trust, Alvin Greene, Charles Sharpe, Jake Knotts, John Jenrette, Mark Sanford, Jim Clyburn (maybe no scandal, but embarrassing nonetheless) and so on and so on.
It looks like we now get to add a couple more – a two-fer!
Lt. Governor Ken Ard has been charged with 92 ethics violations, primarily for using campaign funds for personal use. You’ve got to work hard to get hit with that many violations. Even State Senator Jake Knotts didn’t get that many charges.
According to a detailed article in The State newspaper, the circumstances of Governor Nikki Haley’s pre-gubernatorial employment as a Lexington Medical Center fundraiser is raising eyebrows. Although questions about her job and dismissal from it were reported during the course of the campaign, the details and documentation are only now being made public. The governor has stated that she did not submit or sign the “smoking gun” documents cited in the article.
Both of these cases seem to be legitimate, though the simultaneous timing of the stories is interesting. There is no such thing as coincidence in politics, so to have both the Governor and Lt. Governor making headlines for alleged ethical improprieties is more than a little curious. Anyone who doesn’t suspect – if only for a brief moment – that there is political motive behind these revelations is a fool. Still, the accusations certainly seem to be based on solid evidence, unlike other claims made about the Governor.
If history and legal precedent are to be followed, none of the allegations warrant either criminal charges or termination. But, if, indeed true, these are not rookie mistakes made by people new to their office, but rather personal misconduct and delinquencies of conscious.
The governor’s administration has had a bit of a rocky start even without this latest bit of news. Many of her supporters believe she has made some poor decisions, have questioned her judgment on some issues and perceived an almost “let them eat cake” aloofness. Although such criticisms come with the political territory, her new detractors are among her most dedicated proponents.
Governor Haley and Lt. Governor Ard have got time to repair their reputations; after all, both are just two months into their four-year terms. But, in the meantime, will they become defined by these and future travails?
More importantly, will South Carolina, again, be defined by embarrassing politicians?