Lawmakers share post-election thoughts on politician accountability
The end of the 2018 midterm election has put newly-elected politicians on a new path to carry out campaign promises.
Cleaning up corruption should be a priority, according to former South Carolina senator Larry Martin. The Pickens County Republican served in the legislature for 37 years until he lost his bid for reelection in 2016.
A state grand jury report released in October revealed Martin was the target of attack ads by a fictitious group tied to the controversial Richard Quinn consulting firm, whose founder and a list of clients in the legislature have been indicted following a probe into statehouse corruption. The recent convictions have brought up bitter memories for Martin.
"I know a lot of negative stuff was thrown at me," Martin told WACH FOX. "They were making positions that I didn't take or exaggerating my positions on the issues."
A group called Better Future for Our Community spent $200,000 on attack ads against Martin, claiming he voted to raise taxes to fix roads and spent more money than most other legislators on travel. He said the group running the ads did not like his stance on tort reform and wanted to oust him as chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
"I do believe that it really made a difference," Martin said. "A lot of money was spent on trying to make that difference."
Martin said the legislature has an obligation to address this issue in 2019.
"It's so important while the iron is hot," Martin said. "What I hope happens is that we can try to prevent these large-money interests as portraying themselves as something entirely different to the public and advocating for or against the election of a candidate. We're just a handful of states that don't require disclosure and I wonder why."
While the new South Carolina legislative session always begins the second Tuesday of January, some lawmakers told WACH FOX that it will also mark the return of political tactics that often prevent the passage of legislation.
Lawmakers have described how sometimes lawmakers will "take a walk" or disappear when a vote is taking place. One legislator, who wanted to remain unnamed, said this happens when they're electing judges and college boards of trustees.
"Basically, they'll ask a buddy who doesn't really care or have a dog in the fight to leave in order to skew the vote in their favor," the lawmaker told WACH FOX. "But sometimes they'll do this for other bills that their constituents would actually care about and later explain, 'I missed the vote. I'm sorry.'"
Legislators have also described how they will "gut the bill" before passing it.
"You have to pay close attention to the amendments added. A lot of times (the amendments) take all the meat out of it so it's not as effective as it may sound," the lawmaker said. "That way they can still walk away and say, 'We passed what we promised.'"
Lawmakers said sometimes they will strategically use the calendar to avoid moving forward on a controversial bill.
"Sometimes we'll spend more time discussing something that doesn't need to be discussed to avoid the controversial bill," the lawmaker said, "We keep going until it's time to go home and later explain that we ran out of time."