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Groups file ethics complaint over South Carolina’s Scout Motors incentives

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(The Center Square) — A pair of South Carolina policy groups want the State Ethics Commission to probe whether the more than $1.2 billion Scout Motors deal violated state law because the company didn’t register as a lobbyist.

The South Carolina Policy Council and the South Carolina Public Interest Foundation jointly filed the complaint. They want the state agency to determine whether Scout Motors failed to register as a lobbyist principal before lawmakers signed off on H.3603 on March 15, 2023, and Republican Gov. Henry McMaster later codified as Act 3.

Based in Tysons, Virginia, Scout Motors is establishing its plant on a 1,600-acre site off Interstate 77 in Blythewood in Richland County. According to the complaint, commission records show that the company registered as a “lobbyist principal” on April 20, 2023, a month after Act 3 took effect.

However, the complaint cites reports from The Nerve, published by the South Carolina Policy Council, which uncovered meetings back to October 2022 involving Scout Motors and state officials, including the governor and state lawmakers. The reports “raise legitimate questions about whether Scout Motors or its representatives engaged in direct communication with lawmakers and/or the governor regarding Act 3 of 2023 before the law was passed,” the groups said.

According to the groups, state law requires that lobbyist principals register with the State Ethics Commission within 15 days of “employing, appointing, or retaining a lobbyist.” A spokesman for McMaster did not respond to a request for comment.