February 21, 2024

The Nerve Archive

Where Government Gets Exposed

State House Logic: All Criticisms Are Invalid

road sign with sun in background

Groups critical of legislation ‘exist for the purpose of getting people ginned up so they will send them money’

We don’t know how it is in other states, but South Carolina lawmakers have an inelegant way of dealing with constituents by phone and email. We hear about their dismissive responses and curt emails all the time. Occasionally, when the response is especially revealing – or just galling – we share it with readers.

The following exchange, between Rep. Dan Hamilton (R-Greenville) and a constituent, is a nice example of what we mean:

Mr. Hamilton,
The reforms the Senate has made regarding STIB and DOT are reforms in name only. Please do not vote for fake reforms that leave the current “good ol’ boy” system intact. Please consider the information being offered by Talbert Black of Campaign for Liberty. I’d appreciate a reply.

Rep. Hamilton’s reply:

These groups will never be happy with any reforms passed by the General Assembly. They exist for the purpose of getting people ginned up so they will send them money. If reforms are passed, their issues go away and they are out of jobs. Recognize that as long as we are in a representative government, no reform or bill will be perfect because imperfect people are involved and it takes a majority to pass. I’ll continue to work to get the best legislation passed given the realities of working within a representative form of government.

First, we have to admit that Hamilton’s reply was civil by comparison with those of some of his colleagues over the years. He didn’t, for example, threaten to prosecute the questioner or pay consultants to libel the guy.

By Hamilton’s logic, though, no policy or advocacy organization can ever criticize State House legislation or lawmakers without being guilty of “getting people ginned up so they will send them money.” The reforms advocated by Campaign for Liberty, Coastal Conservation League, and The Nerve’s parent organization, the South Carolina Policy Council, would not benefit these organizations in any way – their advocacy is based on principle alone – and yet somehow they’re just in it for the money. At the very least, we would like to see a similar level of impatience with lawmakers who profit by their office even as they have no obligation to disclose their sources of income.

And yet his following point – that “no reform or bill will be perfect” – implicitly acknowledges the validity of the constituent’s concerns. The legislation in question would not, according to its critics, solve the problem its legislative supporters claim it would solve, namely the lack of accountability to taxpayers for road funding decisions. But never mind. Since “no reform or bill will be perfect because imperfect people are involved and it takes a majority to pass,” constituents like the one quoted above should be happy with whatever their representatives want to sign.

We think Hamilton’s response is ludicrous and revealing. Tell us your view in the comments below, or send us an email at news@thenerve.org.

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The Nerve