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SPEAKER SCANDAL HEADS FOR HOMESTRETCH

The ongoing saga surrounding S.C. Speaker of the House Bobby Harrell’s public corruption case is rapidly closing in on a resolution … one which will no doubt detonate with explosive force across the Palmetto State’s political landscape.

Barring some back room deal we don’t know about, S.C. circuit court judge Casey Manning is expected to rule within days that the Harrell case should be handled by the S.C. House ethics committee – a corrupt panel of lawmakers whose sole purpose is whitewashing precisely this sort of complaint.

Don’t believe us? Look at how the commission handled a much more serious corruption case involving Gov. Nikki Haley (who was able to avail herself of this panel thanks to her status as a former state lawmaker). Or how it failed to even investigate ethics allegations against powerful S.C. ways and means committee chairman Brian White.

FITS has repeatedly called on lawmakers to abolish these “corrupt cover-up committees,” but to no avail.

Manning’s decision – assuming it is what we suspect it will be – would put the ball squarely in the court of S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson, who convened a grand jury in January to investigate the Harrell corruption case.

Since then Harrell has been engaged in a “blood war” against Wilson – one which recently culminated in an effort to secretly strip the state’s top prosecutor of much of his power.

Harrell’s actions reek of desperation – and have many wondering what, exactly, is motivating that desperation.

What we do know is Harrell is counting on the circuit court system to do its best to bail him out of a jam. In fact we’re preparing a major story in which the powerful lawmaker allegedly referenced his fate in an effort to help reelect his ally S.C. Chief Justice Jean Toal to the state Supreme Court.

Stay tuned for that report …

Back to the immediate situation, if Manning indeed attempts to refer the Harrell investigation to the legislature Wilson has the following three basic options:

1) He can classify ALL of the allegations against Harrell as criminal and elect to continue his grand jury probe.
2) He can classify SOME of the allegations against Harrell as criminal and elect to continue his grand jury probe.
3) He can accept the ruling and refer the entire case to the S.C. House of Representatives, discontinuing the grand jury probe.

Which option Wilson chooses could ultimately decide Harrell’s fate.

Harrell is in hot water for a variety of abuses – and that’s just the corruption we know about.

Here’s what we know: 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 has chosen 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.

And all that was before his latest round of hysterics …

Harrell is a bad guy, people. And most agree the actions he’s been accused of rise to the level of criminal corruption – not garden variety ethics infractions.

Can Wilson make that distinction stick, though?

If he can, Harrell will go down.

If he can’t, get ready for yet another Palmetto political whitewash.