Scandals Hit the South

Scandals Hit the South

Amid an outbreak of ethical violations in southern states, Common Cause is pushing reforms that increase transparency of political spending, limit the amount of money candidates can accept and establish reasonable enforcement mechanisms

Ethical Breaches Spur Drive for Reform

Have you noticed the rash of “statehouse scandals” across the South lately?

In Virginia, a former governor once touted as potential national candidate, is facing a prison term after being convicted on corruption charges. In Tennessee, a legislator has been banished from a state office complex following allegations he had inappropriate physical contact with government staffers. In South Carolina, the speaker of the House has been convicted and forced from office and there are persistent reports of a wide-ranging investigation of corruption involving multiple state legislators. And in Alabama, the governor is fighting calls for his resignation or impeachment following the leaking of tapes of his salacious phone chats with a former top aide.

The scandals, featured in a Fox News segment that aired on Saturday, are an unfortunate reminder of what often happens when political power is unchecked and the people holding it feel free to put ideology or private interests ahead of the common interest and public good. Money, power, and influence are a toxic blend that give some politicians a sense of being above the law, or untouchable in a “safe seat” that rarely sees competition.

When elected officials begin to forget that they are accountable to the citizens who put them in office, we’ve got a problem.  Common sense ethics reform helps ensure that our democracy works as it’s supposed to, creating a political environment where everyone participates, has a voice that’s heard, knows who is trying to influence our views and our representatives, plays fair, and is held accountable.   

How do we get there?  In Georgia and other states, Common Cause is striving to restore public confidence in government by elevating ethical standards for public officials. We’re pushing for reforms that generate greater transparency in terms of political spending, provide sensible limits on the amount of money and other items of value that candidates and elected officials can accept, and establish reasonable enforcement mechanisms to deter bad behavior.

We’re also advancing campaign finance systems that combine small dollar campaign contributions from individuals with grants of public funds to allow candidates to run competitive races without becoming dependent on big money. And we’re pushing a variety of steps to eliminate obstacles to voting by expanding voting hours and adding voting locations, as well as automatically registering citizens online or when they sign up for driver’s licenses and other state services.