The piece doesn’t wade too deeply into the best policy arguments for or against the bill—readers unfortunately don’t get a good sense of, for example, why they should care about who controls the garbage market, what that market looks like in other states, or how big a deal it might be if out-of-state trash comes into South Carolina—but rather sticks to the accountability and ethical aspects of the ex-lawmakers who are lobbying on both sides of the pending legislation.

Tommy Moore, once a top South Carolina Senator who was the state Democratic Party’s 2006 nominee for governor, is now lobbying for Big Garbage. Lobbying alongside him is Dan Cooper, an ex-lawmaker who just two years ago chaired the powerful House Ways and Means Committee. Lobbying against their bill on behalf of municipalities is Harry Cato, an ex-legislator who was the (Republican) House Speaker Pro Tem until 2010, a high leadership post.

“Moore, an Aiken County Democrat, and Cooper, an Anderson County Republican, are among 15 lobbyists representing the waste industry in Columbia this year,” Fretwell wrote. “About a third of those lobbyists are ex-legislators.”

He also broke down the spending on both sides.

In the four years ending in 2012, Waste Management and Republic spent about $1.5 million lobbying the Legislature, according to state Ethics Commission data analyzed by The State newspaper.

The primary opponents on the waste bill-the Association of Counties, the Conservation Voters of South Carolina and the Horry County Solid Waste Authority-have spent about $680,000 lobbying during the same four-year period, according to state Ethics Commission records.

The amount of space and resources devoted to the opening salvo of “SC State House for Sale” is a refreshing turn for readers of The State. Several rounds of newsroom layoffs in recent years have left the paper lacking in much of the investigative news, narrative explanatory coverage, and contextual reporting about state government for which it was known in decades past. But the May 19 edition at least had the McClatchy-owned newspaper living up to the registered trademark of its parent company, “Truth to Power.” Here’s hoping the rest of the paper’s series is of a similar caliber.

 

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Corey Hutchins is CJR's correspondent for Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and West Virginia. A former alt-weekly staffer, he has twice been named journalist of the year in the weekly division by the S.C. Press Association. Hutchins recently worked on the State Integrity Investigation at the Center for Public Integrity, and he has contributed to Slate, The Nation, and Medium, among others. Follow him on Twitter @coreyhutchins or email him at coreyhutchins@gmail.com.