COLUMBIA -- An ethics-law loophole that has allowed Republican and Democratic caucuses to secretly spend $3.4 million since 2008 would be closed with legislation the Senate's top Republican filed Tuesday.
Political party spending disclosures have generated controversy lately with reports that the Republican National Committee spent donor money at a Hollywood club featuring simulated bondage and lesbian sex. Meanwhile, federal authorities are investigating the use of Florida GOP American Express cards.
While state law mandates detailed spending reports from political parties, including the South Carolina Republican and Democratic parties, lawmakers excluded their political caucuses from reporting details, The Associated Press reported.
"You pointed out to us that it's needed," said Senate Majority Leader Harvey Peeler, a Gaffney Republican, after he introduced the bill. "I spoke to my constituents and they felt like they needed an itemized accounting," he said.
John Crangle, the state director for Washington-based Common Cause, said he was glad Peeler took action. "That should be public information just like the use of campaign contributions are. It's long overdue," Crangle said. "It's too easy for something like that to be used. That could be used as nothing but a slush fund."
House Majority Leader Kenny Bingham, R-Cayce, argued last week that caucuses should be treated like private nonprofits that don't disclose spending details.
Crangle said there's a big difference. "They're public officials. The only reason their caucus exists is because they are public officials," Crangle said.