Ethics Schmethics II, or, ‘Let’s call the whole thing off’

The story this morning about the SC Senate killing ethics legislation for the year was filled with the kind of nonsense that we’ve come to expect from this institution:

COLUMBIA — The state Senate polices its members just fine, senators said Wednesday, refusing to pass an ethics bill – Gov. Nikki Haley’s top priority for the year – that would end lawmakers’ practice of investigating ethics complaints against legislators.

But senators were pointed in their criticism of the GOP-controlled House’s ethics process, questioning its investigation last year of Republican Haley and its slowness to take up charges against Speaker Bobby Harrell, R-Charleston.

The Senate proved last week it should retain that responsibility when it investigated Sen. Robert Ford, D-Charleston, on charges that he broke the law by spending campaign money on himself, said Senate Ethics chairman Luke Rankin, R-Horry. Facing ouster from the Senate, Ford resigned and now faces a State Law Enforcement Division investigation.

“Is (the state’s current ethics law) broken in the Senate? I think last week was the perfect and the best evidence to show, flatly, no,” Rankin said late Wednesday as the Senate debated the bill…

Really? Because one senator decided to resign in the midst of an ethics proceeding, the system is working? How do you figure? What if he hadn’t resigned? Then we would have seen whether the system works. What Ford did in resigning was abort the process.

Or do you think this is the process? Is your plan that, the next time a senator is investigated, y’all will just say to him, a few weeks into the process, OK, this is the part where you resign and save us all a lot of trouble…?

And if you think it’s not working in the House, or with the governor, why on Earth wouldn’t you change the law in order to address that problem? Instead of just saying, We’re OK here in the Senate, so everything’s hunky-dory.

You know, you’re not elected to pass laws according to how they affect you; you’re supposed to pass them for the good of the state as a whole. Maybe that’s a radical concept for you, but that’s actually the way it’s supposed to be.

It’s not about how senators feel about themselves or about each other. It just isn’t.

But what am I saying? Who’s in the dreamworld here? Obviously, it is all about y’all…

34 thoughts on “Ethics Schmethics II, or, ‘Let’s call the whole thing off’

  1. bud

    Speaking of ethical delimmas, I’m sure everyone has heard of the 10 year old girl waiting for a lung transplant but was initially denied access to the adult list because of her young age. Her parents sued and a judge ordered the denial overturned. Was that the correct ruling? There are many tough questions involved in this and right now I don’t feel like I know enough to offer an opinion. But it did get me to thinking about an earlier issue we discussed regarding chivalry.

    Remember when Brad suggested that violence by a man against a woman was a markedly worse than violence by a man against another man. I suggested that in today’s world that type of thinking in some ways demeaned women. In the case of this transplant issue let me offer this scenerio. There are two equally qualified candidates for a heart transplant but only one heart is available. One person will have an excellent chance for a long life, the other will die. In all respects but one the two candidates are identical: age, race, lifestyle (smoking, drinking etc) odds for the transplant taking and even income (not that that should matter). The ONLY difference is gender. How do you decide who receives the heart and who dies?

    According to Brad’s worldview I would guess he would give it to the woman. At the end of the day, when all is said and done so would I. It’s sort of like putting the women and children into the lifeboats first while the Titanic is going down. It just seems like the proper thing to do.

    1. Doug Ross

      On the transplant, why should the government set the rules on the age limit? Let trained doctors decide what is best. I’m sure there are FAR more factors involved in the potential success of the transplant than what date the child was born on. A large 10 year old child might have more chest cavity space for an adult lung than a small 12 year old.

  2. Mark Stewart

    Any social structure that does not place the good of its children before all others is not a society.

    That was the most lame-brained ruling I had ever heard; to place a sick adult (all adults actually) ahead of a sick child was like some weird distortion of humanity. That does assume, as bud said, viability, fit, etc. being equal. Children should have a chance. Bottom line. I think things get a little iffy with infants in times of extreme events such as extreme famine, total war and such nightmare scenarios. But a child of 12? They should go to the head of the line every time.

  3. bud

    Doug and Mark, maybe you are more knowledgeable about this issue than I am but I do think the age limit has something to do with viability. A 10 year old just would not have the same chance for success as a 15 year old. At least that would seem to be the rational for the rule. If that is NOT the case then yes, let the child go to the head of the line.

    Doug, if the government doesn’t set the rules then who should? At some point this needs to be decided by some type of GOVERNING board. Whether that’s an official arm of the federal government or whether it’s some arbitrary medical panel is sort of a moot point. It’s still a type of government in some sense.

    In the true spirit of libertarianism shouldn’t the person willling to pay the most money be the winner?

    1. Doug Ross

      “In the true spirit of libertarianism shouldn’t the person willling to pay the most money be the winner?”

      You don’t think that happens now? Steve Jobs got a liver transplant very quickly.

      ” Representatives from Cupertino, Calif.-based Apple declined to answer specific questions from or confirm the Wall Street Journal report that Jobs, 54, received a liver transplant. However, Apple released this statement: “Steve continues to look forward to returning to Apple at the end of June and there is nothing further to say.”

      But if Jobs did indeed get a transplant at one of the three designated liver transplant centers in Tennessee (Le Bonheur Children’s Medical Center in Memphis, Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville and Methodist University Hospital in Memphis) experts agree that he would have cut his waiting time for an organ.

      Jobs couldn’t pay for an organ. Nor could he pay to cut the queue. But what someone with Jobs’ resources could do, according to liver transplant surgeons and ethicists, is to use money and mobility to improve the odds either by going to an area of the country where there are more organ donors, or by signing up at multiple transplant centers. ”

      And I can’t fault him for spending the money he earned to save his own life.

      1. Doug Ross

        I am also okay with people selling their organs to the highest bidder as long as there is no coercion involved. No warranties, though 🙂

  4. Kathryn Fenner

    You will never have a total draw in terms of predicted success. The organ should always go to the person in whom it is expected, using the best science available, to be most successful. Without regard to age, sex, whatever. A much sicker kid should not get priority over an adult who is more likely to survive longer.

    1. Mark Stewart


      Agreed. But I thought the issue here was that the child was excluded from the transplant because they were a minor?

      It makes no sense to give organs to those who will die soon anyway. But to exclude from consideration because one is not an adult is not acceptable. 70 yr olds should never trump a 12 yr old in organ transplants..

      1. Juan Caruso

        “Successful”/ “success” has been mentioned in several comments without definition. I seriously doubt that the ‘success’ criterion mentioned by KF, bud, and Doug Ross have intended the same definition.

        Too many doctors employeed by the VA have behaved more like bureaucrats than leaders in the medical profession. By 2020, when regional hospitals will begin closing or merging for cost containment purposes, the appalling bureaucratic mentality may be the rule rather than the exception. Should the controlling definition of “success” ever be left to politicians (who eventually claim the best intentions despite results of obvious mismanagement), to bureaucrats (who eventually claim conflicting directives and regulations), or to consumers of healthcare (who have had ObamaCare forced upon them)?

        If veterans care is inadequate now, what makes anyone think women’s and children’s health would be
        prioritized in 7 years? In all likelihood, politicians and members of federal unions, and preferred political contributors somehow appear atop every organ transplant list. 2008 flowchar (Socialism is Favoritism):

        1. bud

          Doug has already demonstrated with his Steve Jobs example that the current system greatly favors those with money. So what is the better choice in making this life/death decision – the person with the most money or the person with the best political connections? Personally I’d rather take my chances with the government bureacracy rather than free-market capitalism. Money corrupts either way but at least with the government as the final decider there is a chance for a decision based on need/expected outcome. The free-market method ensures the rich will go to the head of the line.

          1. Doug Ross


            Let’s say Steve Jobs also donated millions of dollars to the hospital which would help many more patients down the road. Would that be worth moving up the list?

  5. Kathryn Fenner

    Successful is a medically defined term. Did the body accept or reject the transplant.
    What is the patient’s life expectancy with and without this t/p? Not “a” t/p, this one. Is this one a good fit for this patient?

  6. Bryan Caskey

    This crisis was caused by a bureaucratic restriction which doctors have argued convincingly (in my view) no longer makes sense, and should have been reviewed long ago.

    The essential nature of the request from the Murnaghan family and their supporters was to remove a bureaucratic obstacle, not create a special opportunity by judicial decree. From what I’ve read, with this “Under 12 Rule” out of the way, Sarah would be at the top of the list under other criteria, so she wasn’t really “bumped ahead” of others by judicial fiat.

  7. Lynn T

    Well, folks, how about the actual issue of the ethical standards of our public officials, which is what the original post is about? Organ transplants are a medical ethical issue, not a matter of government ethics. Do you really not care about government ethics? Does it really not interest any of you that legislators are fighting to keep their ability to hide the ways in which the money that flows into their pockets distorts decision-making in this state? Are the legislators who say this doesn’t matter to you right? (I’ll observe here that one senator who said on the floor that his constituents weren’t interested repeatedly ignored requests from constituents for a appointment to talk about this issue .)

  8. Lynn T

    Maybe what we need here are some headlines, which would be quite accurate, along the lines of “10 year old girl threatened with death while ambulance impeded in traffic because highway funds all funneled to benefit coastal developers who pay legislators.”

    1. Lynn T

      Thank you, that has been my number one hypothesis for why citizens haven’t inundated legislators with demands for reform. People care but feel the issue is too big, too entrenched, too complex and don’t know how to address it. Well, passing H.3945 would have helped a lot, but people didn’t convince legislators that they would hold them accountable. Thus most of the Democrats, the TEA partiers, and a few others like Rankin and Leatherman felt safe in stalling for weeks and then dumping it for the year “because there wasn’t enough time.”

  9. Kathryn Fenner

    Again, what Scout said. My reps in state government support ethics reform. I don’t know what I can do.

    1. Lynn T

      Writing to legislators who already support reform helps too. It would be great if they could respond to reform opponents that they are indeed hearing from their constituents on this issue.

        1. Lynn T

          I was thinking of the average voter, who needs to write or call their representatives to commend them on positions that they like and encourage them, as well as communicating when they want to change their minds or express displeasure. Your point is different altogether, that you chat with “James” at the Rotary Club or wherever. That is lovely, but doesn’t argue against my point.

          1. Kathryn Fenner

            You are right, of course! I was just splainin’ why I wasn’t commenting….

    1. Doug Ross

      Very good, tough questions. Very typical, lawerly answers. He hates playing the blame game and partisanship but blames Haley for everything.

      1. Kathryn Fenner

        Didn’t seem very lawyerly to me. He doesn’t hedge much. He called it like he saw it, IMHO.

        1. Doug Ross

          What was the worst thing he said about Democrats who held up the ethics bill? He dodged that completely. What did he say the problem was? The blame game. Then what did he do? He blamed Haley.

          He couldn’t bring himself to denounce Ford (can’t lose any black votes)… didn’t mention a single legislator as having any role in blocking the bill. It’s all Haley’s fault even though she pushed for the bill and doesn’t have a vote.

          And his response to this question: “Since you are running for governor, what does this inability to move your own party along say about your leadership?” was ridiculous. ” I think it shows we need a new governor.” He failed to have the influence in his own party to get it through and that’s why we need a new governor???? Really? He would have LESS power as governor.

          All I wanted out of him was something approaching a truthful statement. It was more of the same – dodge tough questions, blame Haley — and he even through in a Sanford dig.

      2. Brad Warthen Post author

        Doug, I don’t know why you keep finding fault with Sheheen finding fault with the governor. He’s running against HER. He wants her job. The task before him is to point out a) why she should no longer hold the job, and b) why he should take her place.

        Not everyone is like you; not everyone regards incumbency as inherently bad. Before most of us can seriously consider replacing her, we have to be convinced that she needs to be replaced…

        1. Doug Ross

          When he starts telling me what he will do as governor then I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt. He’s all negative all the time. It’s going to get really boring after a year. We know who Nikki Haley is. We have no idea who Vincent Sheheen is or what he can do.

          He’s running AGAINST Haley not FOR Governor.

          1. Doug Ross

            I want to see Sheheen’s response to the next South Carolina state budget. What would he veto if he was governor? Let’s see if he has the guts to demonstrate his governor skills or just harp on Haley’s decisions.

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