Last week, the South Carolina Ethics Commission handed down an advisory opinion at the behest of a certain Midlands lawmaker.
The advisory ruling said that a group advocating tuition tax credits in the General Assembly could be forced, under the threat of criminal prosecution, to disclose the sources and outlays of its finances.
It all started a few weeks ago when a school tax credit bill endorsed by Gov. Mark Sanford was being debated in the House of Representatives.
In the opposition camp was Rep. Bill Cotty (R-Richland). During the debate, some radio ads and direct mail campaign materials were sent out in Cotty's district.
The ads were paid for by South Carolinians for Responsible Government — a school choice/voucher advocacy group that firmly supports Gov. Sanford's public school program of tax credits and neighborhood schools.
Cotty faces Sherri Few in the June 13 primary. Few, incidently, also firmly supports school choice initiatives.
The radio spots, which ran within 45 days of the June 13 primary, urged listeners to contact Cotty's office and tell him to get behind a plan that bestowed a $1,000 tax credit for parents to use to send their children to private schools.
Cotty felt he was being targeted by the ads and wanted the SCRG to file financial disclosure reports with the state election commission because he contended the group was trying to influence his primary challenge from Few.
Cotty told The State the ads "are clearly intended to influence the election against me. It's like being attacked by carpetbaggers."
The SCRG refused to file disclosure forms, saying they were only trying to "inform voters," so Cotty asked for an advisory opinion on the matter from the Ethics Commission.
Most of the people who oppose school choice/tuition tax credits initiatives suspect that SCRG is financed largely by out-of-state national school choice groups who want to make South Carolina its test case for expected federal litigation should these measures pass the General Assembly.
While last Wednesday's ruling did not specifically identify SCRG, it was still pretty easy to figure out what the Ethics Commission was addressing.
The best part of this story is that an old ghost got to put his mug in front of the cameras once again.
Cotty's lawyer in this case is none other than The Wandering Eye's favorite fascist: former S.C. Attorney General Charlie Condon.
The only bummer about Condon's name being in the news was that The Eye totally agreed with his argument.
He tossed out a couple of his signature high-horse pronouncements after the ruling.
"This ruling indicates SCRG is subject to our state's laws," said Condon to The State.
To the Post & Courier, Condon commented, "It makes it crystal clear ... that being an IRS nonprofit doesn't obviate the need to comply with state law."
What The Eye would like to know is: did Charlie Condon ever give these guys money because The Eye already knows he'd be kissing their asses if he was still on the campaign trail.
Condon says he and Cotty are considering a number of options, including a formal complaint to the Ethics Commission (which would result in a SCRG-specific ruling) or a lawsuit to force financial declarations.
Regarding Cotty's carpetbagger reference, Merrill did tell The State, "It's laughable. If [Cotty] wants to claim that our 2,000 grassroots supporters are not South Carolinians, that's his right. But I think they will take great offense at that."
Merrill did, however, refuse the reporter's request for a membership list.
So much for transparency in the political process!