COLUMBIA — Public officials would have to abide by additional income source disclosure, a beefed-up State Ethics Commission would initially handle all complaints against officials and the state’s open records law would be strengthened under proposals released by an ethics reform group this morning.

The S.C. Commission on Ethics Reform, formed by Gov. Nikki Haley in October via an executive order, released its report after a series of public meetings.

“Our people must have confidence and respect for our government,” said commission co-chairman and former Attorney General Henry McMaster. “Our government at all levels ... must be above suspicion or it will not work.”

In all, reform commissioners — none of whom are sitting public officials — made 23 recommendations.

One suggestion is the abolishment of so-called leadership political action committees (PACs), which create public distrust in the campaign finance system, McMaster said.

A PAC associated with House Speaker Bobby Harrell, a Charleston Republican, is widely known as the most prominent such group in the state, though the group is technically currently classified by the Ethics Commission as a non-candidate committee.

What happens to the reform recommendations will be up to state lawmakers, who have appointed their own ethics reform study groups.

The establishment of the reform panels followed a series of high-profile ethics controversies, and an “F” ranking for the state’s ethics laws in a national report.

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