As first noted on The Statehouse Report and subsequently here, ABC News has broadcast a piece on the failings of South Carolina’s Department of Social Services; failings that have led to the abuse and even deaths of children in the Palmetto State.
Now, the Democratic Governor’s Association has produced an ad featuring former DSS Attorney Betsy Burton. In the ad, Ms. Burton says, “I resigned from DSS because we actually were leaving children in dangerous situations to make the numbers look better. That really disturbed my conscience and I did not wish to be a part of that.“
Spartanburg, SC television station WSPA did some fact checking on its website and posted this:
A Post and Courier quote comes up on screen after she says that: “covering up systemic problems.” If you look that article up, you’ll find it’s not a news article at all. It’s an opinion piece. If you scroll down to that quote, you’ll see it’s about former DSS Director Lillian Koller exaggerating numbers to the Senate oversight committee. It has nothing to do with employees putting children in danger to cook the books.
Although this hardly exonerates the Haley Administration, it shows that the race for governor this year will be more intense than the Haley/Sheheen contest of four years ago. Haley won’t be able to ride Sarah Palin’s coattails this time, nor will she be the fresh new face of South Carolina politics. Three months ago, when the DSS issue exploded into the public arena, I wrote:
I like Nikki Haley, both personally and as a constituent. She is smart, charming, personable and driven. I believe she has been good for South Carolina’s image. Clearly, she has been good for business investments in the state and, whether she is the beneficiary of fiscal cycles or her own prowess, Nikki Haley has been in the Big Chair as unemployment numbers drop and new businesses rise.
She has endured some particularly harsh and unfair criticism borne either from racial/gender prejudices or political snobbery. Still, the DSS scandal – and a scandal it is – could very well limit her tenure to one term, end her political standing statewide/nationally and even damage South Carolina beyond that which DSS has already inflicted.
If Nikki Haley is not re-elected, Democrat Vincent Sheheen will become Governor. With an overwhelmingly predominant Republican General Assembly, the work of the state will halt. Sheheen’s no-doubt liberal appointees will create a regulatory mess. Corporate investment will slow if not stop.
By no means am I suggesting the governor be given a pass to protect us from a Democrat in the Governor’s Mansion. Rather, these are the potential consequences we may see.
Nikki Haley’s flawed trust in those she selected to run DSS is a mistake in judgement and oversight that had the worst possible consequences. She is responsible for the actions of those who, by neglect or ignorance, provided the circumstances of abuse. Re-electing her will not bring back those children lost to bureaucratic bungling or heal wounds of that will scar others for life. Yet, as serious and inexcusable as it is, I do not believe the DSS scandal as symptomatic of Nikki Haley’s executive style or personal character. She is not a murderer nor is she complicit in the deaths of those poor children.
The Department of Social Services is about to be a much better public steward, albeit because of scandal and scrutiny. For the future of those it is meant to serve, this is a blessing. For those it has failed, it is far too late.