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Recent History and Sanford Investigations Prove that Transparency Law is Much Needed

September 16, 2009

By: Keith H. Seymour, SCHotline Contributing Editor

Those who do not learn from the mistakes of history are doomed to repeat them. — George Santayana (Philosopher, poet, statesman)

It is apparent that South Carolinians have not learned from the unfortunate history of our state’s leadership abusing their access to various funds and other tax payer funded perks at their disposal.

Whether it is former  University of South Carolina president, James Holderman,  who in the early 1990s was found guilty of “misusing public funds,” by spending exorbitant  amounts of money on hotel rooms, transportation, and other perks, former governor, James Hodges spending almost a year’s allowance for the governor’s mansion within his last few months in office, or our current situation, we have proof that the current “alleged” misuse of funds by Governor Sanford is not a first in South Carolina’s history.

Therefore,  South Carolinians have a legitimate right to be concerned, when it is reported that our governor is utilizing $ 12,000 round trip flights, whereas his staff are subjected to flights worth a few hundred dollars .  However, we should not merely limit our scope of accountability to the governor and elected officials.  South Carolinians should demand  a law requiring total transparency in how our tax dollars are spent, among all stated agencies, especially since we now have a state  lottery that is supposed to fund education. As indicated above, even our state colleges have a tendency to misuse our tax dollars, when we are not paying attention.

Just recently, I read in the “Freetimes” how the University of South Carolina has wasted money on how it has handled the contract agreement regarding the Innovista project. (Freetimes August 19 p.14: “USC Broke Contract in Keeping, Firing Roscoe.”)  The money wasted due to contractual discrepancies, could have probably benefited college programs and students.

I however,  have yet to see or hear any elected official or any of my colleagues in the mainstream media to suggest a bi -partisan effort to pass a law requiring total transparency in how our taxes are spent, among all state officials and organizations which is put into effect would cost less taxpayer time and money to enforce than it would to investigate and possibly prosecute. This gives the clear indication that  Furthermore, such investigations should not be investigated by the state ethics committee, but by an independent investigator and  prosecutor, so that taxpayer time and money is not wasted on partisan politics.

The bottom line is that  for South Carolina to move forward economically, educationally, and  politically a “full state level transparency law” is needed.” If our elected officials cannot see fit to pass such a law, then maybe they probably should not remain in office, because they are giving the appearance that while many of the expressed concerns about Governor Sanford’s spending habits may be justified, many others are just blatantly hypocritical attempts to undermine the governor. Likewise, if the people of this state cannot see fit to get their senators and representatives to pass such a law, then such individuals need to stop complaining about how their tax dollars are being wasted, since they have not made the necessary effort to pay attention to how the money they are paying out in taxes is being used.

Keith H. Seymour is a Freelance Writer and Media Consultant living in Columbia, S.C. He may be reached at or 803-960-8785. He may also be followed on twitter at writestuffcmour. Seymour also writes a political, community advocacy and social issues blog ay

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