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A statewide grand jury will be impaneled to hear the corruption case involving S.C. Speaker of the House Bobby Harrell – arguably the most powerful elected official in the legislatively dominated Palmetto State.

According to a statement released this week from S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson’s office, “in response to various inquiries to this Office regarding the status of the Speaker Bobby Harrell matter, this is to advise that it is being referred to the State Grand Jury.”

“No further comment will be forthcoming from this office due to State Grand Jury secrecy requirements,” the statement added.

Wow … that’s a shocker.

Sources familiar with the case previously told FITS they expected Wilson to send the case to the S.C. House Ethics Committee, where it would have almost certainly been whitewashed in the same manner as the 2012 ethics case against S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley.  We weren’t the only ones to hear that – as several of Harrell’s strongest supporters received the same scoop.

Looks like everybody missed this call …

Wilson’s referral is especially ballsy given his history with Harrell – although it remains to be seen whether he referred the case because he has the goods on the Speaker or because he is looking for a venue to wash his hands of the matter.

“It’s a way out for him,” one source said, referring to the grand jury as a way for Wilson “not to make a decision.”

Most others disagreed.

“I don’t know of any Attorney General who sends a case to the grand jury who isn’t 100 percent certain of the outcome,” one source familiar with the process told FITS.

The timing of Wilson’s announcement couldn’t be worse for Harrell, either.  Not only does it come less than twenty-four hours before the start of the 2014 legislative session, but Harrell’s political action committee – which is at the heart of the investigation – has a fundraising reception scheduled for next week.

Harrell is in hot water for a variety of abuses.  For starters he reimbursed himself more than $325,000 from his campaign account for dubious flight-related expenses (Harrell is a pilot). In fact he has effectively admitted his guilt by returning $23,000 of these reimbursements – although a proper accounting of his flight-related costs would require him to reimburse tens of thousands more.

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) on behalf of his pharmaceutical business – using his official letterhead, no less.

Oh, and his political action committee is also under scrutiny for allegedly misappropriating and misreporting funds – including an effort to force taxpayers to pay hundreds of millions of dollars on an unnecessary transportation project.

Of course Harrell’s abuses pale in comparison to those of Haley – who was caught red-handed illegally lobbying government officials on behalf of her employer (among other offenses).

This website has already called on Harrell to step down – not only because of the allegations against him, but because of how he chose to respond to them. First he lied and refused to release his records. Then he assassinated the character of one of the reporters investigating him – strong-arming her newspaper into backing down by allegedly threatening to withhold an annual $12 million bribe given by the S.C. General Assembly to the newspaper industry.

Harrell is the second high-ranking South Carolina elected official Wilson has sent before a grand jury.

In February 2012, S.C. Lt. Gov. Ken Ard (RINO-Pamplico) resigned his office shortly before pleading guilty to an elaborate cash-for-contributions campaign finance scam (first exposed by FITS).

UPDATE: Speaker Harrell has just issued a response to Wilson’s decision.

UPDATE II: Drama …

UPDATE III: Our sources at the S.C. Attorney General’s office and the S.C. State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) tell FITS they stand by their earlier assessments that Harrell will be exonerated.

UPDATE IV: What do you think? Vote in our poll …

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