COLUMBIA, SC (WCSC) - Lt. Gov.-elect Henry McMaster requested the State Ethics Commission dismiss a complaint alleging his campaign illegally accepted contributions after his failed gubernatorial bid in 2010, stating he did not violate the law.
The State Ethics Commission voted to pursue allegations filed in 2014 that claim 51 instances of over-the-limit donations being accepted by the McMaster campaign, documents state. Those contributions were intended to pay off campaign debt after McMaster lost the state's gubernatorial primary.
A complaint filed with the State Ethics Commission in April alleged McMaster's campaign "created a phantom general election in which he was not participating and solicited additional donations for that election in an effort to circumvent the law."
The commission set March 18 as the date for a formal hearing on the accusations, documents state.
"This complaint relates to the 2010 Republican primary for Governor, but it was not filed until four years later, in the middle of the 2014 campaign for Lieutenant Governor, in an apparent effort to embarrass Mr. McMaster," McMaster spokesman Jeff Taillon said.
"The question raised is a technical one: should a candidate for public office be allowed to set up a separate debt retirement account after the campaign is over? In good faith, Mr. McMaster and his campaign team relied on an opinion by the State Ethics Commission issued in 1992, which held that debt retirement donations be treated separately. We are working with the State Ethics Commission towards a favorable resolution," Taillon said.
In documents filed in response to the allegations, McMaster's attorney, Karl Bowers, Jr., stated McMaster collected contributions, paid off campaign debts from that race, and filed his final disclosure report with the Ethics Commission. McMaster requested the opinion from the commission himself after running for lieutenant governor in 1990, Bowers said.
"As the commission is aware, '(a)n opinion rendered by the commission until amended or revoked is binding on the commission in any subsequent charges concerning the person who requested the opinion and who acted in reliance on it in good faith,'" Bowers wrote.
A state Republican Party spokesperson said the party has a policy of not commenting on pending legal matters.
McMaster will become lieutenant governor at noon on Jan. 14.