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Leader of group that brought complaint against Harrell says ethics laws should go


COLUMBIA, South Carolina — The leader of the organization that brought the allegations that led to the indictment of House Speaker Bobby Harrell says the state should do away with its current ethics laws.

Ashley Landess with the South Carolina Policy Council suggested Wednesday that ethics violations should be handled under the state's criminal laws, The State newspaper ( ) reported.

She said the personal use of campaign money, for example, could be handled under criminal embezzlement laws, Landess said.

Landess said minor violations could be handled through election laws and dealt with by the State Election Commission.

Landess spoke to a subcommittee created by acting House Speaker Jay Lucas of Darlington to work on reforming the state's ethics laws.

She said making ethics violations a crime would be better than trying to reform existing ethics laws.

A tea party activist, Talbert Black, told the panel the House speaker has too much power.

"We didn't get into this situation because of one particular speaker and his apparent abuse of power," Black told the subcommittee.

John Crangle with the group Common Cause suggested the ethics law be reformed to ban fund-raising during non-election years. He also suggested doing away with the House and Senate ethics committees and transferring their responsibilities to the State Ethics Commission.

Information from: The State,

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