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S.C. Speaker Bobby Harrell (RINO-Charleston) – one of the primary architects of the Palmetto State’s “Lost Decade” – is currently staring down a criminal investigation into a host of alleged ethical lapses. In fact he’s already effectively admitted his guilt with regard to one of those lapses – returning $23,000 of the more than $325,000 in controversial reimbursements he gave himself from his campaign account.

In addition to his reimbursement scandal, Harrell also stands accused of applying improper pressure on the S.C. Pharmacy Board and the S.C. Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation (SCLLR) regarding his pharmaceutical business. Not only that his political action committee is under scrutiny for allegedly misappropriating and misreporting funds.

And those are just the instances of corruption we know about …

But this isn’t just about Harrell’s many, many mistakes … it’s about how he has chosen to respond to them.

First he has lied and refused to release his records. He’s also assassinated the character of one of the reporters investigating him – strong-arming her newspaper into backing down by threatening to withhold an annual $12 million bribe given by the S.C. General Assembly to the newspaper industry. Not content with those measures, Harrell then sought to purchase the votes of his would-be jurors on the infinitely corrupt S.C. House Ethics Committee – which gained infamy last year when it whitewashed similarly egregious ethical violations committed by then-S.C. Rep. Nikki Haley.

Ironically, Haley’s administration – specifically the S.C. State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) – has been assigned to conduct a criminal probe into the allegations against Harrell. Most suspect the governor will push SLED to drop the hammer on her longtime political rival – although there is no shortage of speculation at the S.C. State House regarding an alleged quid pro quo between the two “Republicans” regarding their various ethical issues.

Harrell needs to end all of this drama now – by resigning.

Again, it’s not just what he’s done – it’s how he has responded to this scandal. Oh, and the fact fresh allegations of impropriety (like his $3,500 contribution to S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson’s 2011 inaugural event) keep cropping up.

Let’s rewind the clock for a moment to 2009, when former S.C. Gov. Mark Sanford – another unethical politician who didn’t handle his scandal particularly well – was fighting for his political survival. Here’s what Harrell had to say at the time …

… other disturbing facts have continued to trickle out relating to possible misconduct and potential violations of state law that have occurred during your administration. These facts have led to an ongoing Ethics Commission Investigation into a number of allegations against you. The daily trickle of allegations against you has shown that there is no end in sight to the constant distractions caused by you remaining in office … Your actions have amounted to a self-inflicted wound that has forced unnecessary suffering on the people of South Carolina. This has placed tremendous stress and uncertainty on the citizens of our state at a time when we need to be focused on more important issues … This is a critical time for South Carolina to have strong and effective leadership for our people … Thus, for the benefit of the people of South Carolina, I respectfully request that you resign …

Exactly … except now the “constant distractions,” “daily trickle of allegations” and “stress and uncertainty” are all emanating from the Speaker’s Office, where Harrell is dealing with a “self-inflicted wound” far worse than the one administered by Sanford.

Accordingly, we call on Bobby Harrell to resign his office – immediately.

South Carolina cannot permit yet another one of its high profile leaders to evade responsibility for lawlessness the way Nikki Haley did. For once, Harrell ought to stop acting in his own interests and take a step which will benefit the people of this state.

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Pic: Travis Bell Photography