Elections

New Rule: Politicians Can’t Use Campaign Funds For Dry Cleaning

REUTERS/Rick Wilking

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Phillip Stucky Political Reporter
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Politicians can no longer use campaign funds to pay for dry cleaning, according to 26 new rules passed Friday by the South Carolina House Ethics Committee stipulates.

“We’re all trying to tighten up and be as specific as we can,” Republican Chairman of the Ethics Committee Kenny Bingham told The Courier. “The laundry list opinion is done to try to give some people some guidance because people are petrified of making a mistake and getting a negative newspaper article.”

The unusual dry cleaning rule was one of 26. The 26 specific scenarios came from lawmakers who requested clarity on a number of key issues after officials assigned Special Investigator David Pascoe to look into South Carolina Statehouse corruption.

The Committee’s decisions don’t carry legal weight in a court of law, but do function as guidelines on lawmaker actions. Some of the other highly specific guidelines include a ban on paying for a meal with a constituent. Another rule allows lawmakers to use campaign funds to purchase clothes, provided those clothes are only for “official use” as a member of the House.

“The bottom line is, for a lot of these things, it’s up to the member to make determinations if it’s associated with the campaign,” Bingham said. “The law is broad in that nature and you’re electing somebody responsible.”

Not all of the Ethics Committee decisions were small-minded, two decisions in particular apply to multiple situations. The first such decision allows lawmakers who work for or own businesses that get Medicaid payments to vote on state contribution the budget. The second allows lawmakers to work for lobbying firms, as long as they don’t personally lobby for issues.

Both rules have the greatest potential for a conflict of interest in multiple potential situations.

Pascoe made the news in July when the South Carolina Supreme Court ruled that the special prosecutor had sole power in the ongoing House corruption probe, something that state Attorney General Alan Wilson protested.

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