The Palmetto Insider

The blog of the South Carolina Policy Council

Richland County Approves Spending Taxpayer Funds on Lobbying

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Less than two months after the Columbia City Council voted not to renew its annual contracts with statehouse lobbyists, Richland County Council has tentatively approved spending up to $60,000 in taxpayer funds to lobby federal and state officials. 

The council voted Tuesday to award a contract to Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough, according to WACH.

Columbia-based Nelson Mullins is the largest law firm in South Carolina and includes among its lobbyists Dwight Drake, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for governor.

Richland County had not previously employed any lobbyists to represent its interests, county spokeswoman Stephany Snowden told WACH.

The goal behind the move was to give Richland County a stronger voice at the state and federal levels, but as the Policy Council has pointed out, taxpayer-funded lobbying is problematic because it presents a conflict of interest and wastes tax dollars. Taxpayers, whether they realize it, might be paying a lobbyist to advocate for something they oppose.

It also adds an extra and unnecessary layer of government process that conflicts with good, open-government policies.

While the city council voted to authorize the expense Tuesday, it does not formally take effect until council members approve the minutes at their next meeting, scheduled for Nov. 17.

Several South Carolina counties already pay lobbyists, according to information found on the South Carolina Ethics Commission website.

These include Greenville, Jasper and Union counties. In addition, Dillon County Council paid for lobbying this year.

Also, the S.C. Association of Counties paid $47,393 to lobbyists and listed $34,043 in lobbyist-related expenditures for the first six months of 2009.

In all, several dozen government entities across the state expended public funds on lobbyists in 2009, according to filings with the state Ethics Commission.

Gov. Mark Sanford issued an executive order in 2003 prohibiting cabinet agencies under his control from using public money on lobbyists. Several bills have also been introduced in the General Assembly seeking to extend that ban to all state agencies. None have passed.

Columbia’s decision in September to cut statehouse lobbyists was the result of the city’s financial difficulties.

However, Columbia officials opted earlier this year to renew its annual contract with CapitalEdge Strategies of Washington, D.C. The amount of the city’s contract with the Capitol Hill lobbying firm is more than $62,000.


Written by Cotton Boll Conspiracy

November 6, 2009 at 12:27 pm

2 Responses

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  1. Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by scpolicycouncil: During tough economic times, Richland County spends your tax dollars to hire lobbyists #sctweets…

    uberVU - social comments

    November 7, 2009 at 10:09 am

  2. […] 1, 2009 9:53 am During the past few weeks, several localities across the state have announced plans to hire lobbyists to petition the state and federal government for more money. […]

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