Elections panel loses patience with Hodges
By Dan Hoover
Frustrated by Gov. Jim Hodges' seven-month refusal to address the
campaign finance reform recommendations he appointed them to develop,
members of the bipartisan panel have gone public with the report.
Recommendations include tough new requirements for full financial
disclosure by political parties and enforcement powers for the Ethics
Commission. Hodges vetoed a disclosure bill last year.
Laurel Suggs, president of the state chapter of the League of Women
Voters and a panel member, said, "We really don't know why" Hodges
won't release it. "We've asked what was going on and we really haven't
gotten an answer."
John Crangle, executive director of the state chapter of Common Cause
and a fellow panelist, said Hodges "apparently doesn't like the
recommendations, particularly public financing and the requirement it
would impose on the Democratic Party to disclose its donors. He
wouldn't sign the disclosure bill last year that the Republicans
Appointing the task force "was a transparent and cynical scheme to buy
time," Crangle said.
Hodges, a Democrat with more than a $2 million edge in financing over
the nearest potential 2002 GOP challenger, said there's ample time to
develop the report into legislation.
Dick Harpootlian, a panelist and state Democratic Party chairman who
supported most of the recommendations, sided with Hodges' go-slow
Harpootlian said that with "whatever might pass, it's not going to
take effect until the next election cycle" for 2004. "There's plenty
"It's buried," said Henry McMaster, a panel member and state GOP
chairman. "I don't think the governor ever had any intention to
release it. The whole thing is a fraud."
Major recommendations were:
• Disclosure by political parties and independent organizations
promoting candidates or ballot issues of all donations.
• Public financing of statewide and legislative campaigns.
• Electronic filing of finance report by candidates, including donors'
names, addresses, occupations and employers. All reports would be
posted on the Internet.
• Making the state Ethics Commission the "sole agency" for filing
contribution reports with enhanced and "exclusive enforcement power"
in dealing with violations and increased openness.
• Banning corporate and union contributions.
Members also agreed that the Legislature should consider raising the
current donation limits of $3,500 per contributor for statewide races
and $1,000 for legislative races. They made no dollar recommendation.
In addition to Suggs, Crangle, Harpootlian and McMaster, the task
force included John Montgomery, dean of the University of South
Carolina School of Law.
Both party chairmen disagreed with the majority's call for public
"Maybe (Hodges) has more pressing matters," Montgomery said. The
educator said he never expected immediate action because the report
came during the middle of an election cycle.
But Suggs said that Hodges has had enough time, especially after
release of a separate election reform task force report, and "since
they go hand in hand, we decided it was time people see we're trying
to address these issues."
"We're not willing to let it die," Suggs said.
Hodges created the Governor's Task Force on Campaign Finance Reform
after he vetoed financial disclosure legislation he said was
The panel said its goals included promoting greater credibility and
participation in the political system among voters, encouraging a
wider range of candidates, minimizing the impact of money, and
Dan Hoover covers politics and can be reached at 298-4993.