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THE ONLY QUESTION: WILL HE GET AWAY WITH IT?

By A. Citizen || The moniker used by national pundits to describe South Carolina’s politics is ‘blood sport.’

Those in power here will do absolutely anything to control the ‘House of Cards’ they build atop mountains of your tax dollars. We’ve witnessed scandal after scandal in recent years, but now we are watching something truly extraordinary – a political giant trying to destroy everyone and everything in his path.

For years S.C. Speaker Bobby Harrell has been considered the most powerful man in South Carolina. He rules the state’s House of Representatives with an iron fist –  appointing committee members, leaders and dictating what laws and spending items emerge from his chamber.

No one ever thought a man with such incredible clout could be so stupid, though – or so thin-skinned. Starting two years ago with an intrepid reporter with The (Charleston, S.C.) Post and Courier, though, all South Carolinians saw this man beginning to topple.

Beyond the public corruption already exposed, allegations have been made that the Speaker holds drug abuse over several powerful people in the state, including the owner of The Post and Courier.

One thing the Speaker never counted on though was a libertarian ‘think tank’ willing to take on his power – picking up where the intrepid reporter left off. With no deference given to the possible damage this could do to their fundraising, the S.C. Policy Council pushed forward – trying to ensure the speaker was held accountable.

They succeeded, too – uncovering several substantive allegations and referring them to the appropriate authorities.

Like any wounded animal, Harrell fought back. He used family, friends and applied constant pressure to try and shut down what he viewed as this ‘act of betrayal.’

As the speaker’s cronies began hammering away at the Policy Council, they upped the ante by going after S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson – the official who received the complaint against Harrell.

As many in this state have recognized, in politics no one is innocent. Everyone makes mistakes, and the Speaker used countless resources to ensure he could find something against the state’s top law enforcement official. While he was ratcheting up his machine to begin disqualifying any, and every naysayer, he and his cronies began creating blogs so he could disseminate the information he found from a seemingly ‘organic source.’

And so these blogs began popping up – one called GOPWrite.com, then another Between the Chambers and eventually HolyCityPolitics.com. As the Speaker’s minions – including his son, Trey Harrell – produced and disseminated information to the blogs, the attacks became more transparent. Without any proof, they decided the consulting firm of Richard Quinn and Associates was to blame for the attack on Harrell.

So they endeavored to get their revenge.

They began by berating the reputation of the Attorney General – a Quinn client – with constant accusations of ethical misconduct. Then it moved to outright war – with personal attacks on him and his wife, Jennifer Wilson.

Text messages from Harrell allies claiming “this is a blood-feud” and “they want the AG impaled” began circulating across the Palmetto State’s political landscape as the revenge machine came to life. Anyone and everyone associated with the Quinns would come under attack – and anyone and everyone else associated with politics in South Carolina was forced to pick a side.

Picking a side against a sitting Speaker can be damaging to any legislator in this state – not just because Bobby Harrell gets to determine committee appointments, but because his ethically challenged leadership PAC moves hundreds of thousands in campaign contributions to favored candidates.

Many representatives were left asking the question: “Do I stick with the speaker, or do I take a chance on losing my seat?”

The threats of political and personal destruction emanating from Harrell’s organization have grown broader and more intense as his scandal has worn on – with evidence of extramarital affairs, drug problems, alcoholism and other scandalous behavior gathered and leveraged to maximum effect against his enemies (real or imagined).

Beyond that, Harrell allegedly rigged a Supreme Court election to further cover his exposed flank. He also drafted his own laws to undercut the Attorney General under the mask of an individual who almost saw prison time for tax evasion.

In his maneuverings Harrell had the Democrats lock, stock and barrel because their very existence in the House depends on remaining in his good graces.

Democrats in South Carolina understand better than anyone that if they want a bill in the House to see the light of day – they can’t rock the Speaker’s boat too hard. Angering Harrell also means they might find their districts sliced and diced the next time redistricting rolls around.

These are rational fears – which is why Harrell is able to use them against Democrats so effectively.

A nugget of fear wasn’t enough, though. Harrell needed a carrot to go with his stick, and so  a promise was made to allow Democrats to ‘investigate’ appointees of Gov. Nikki Haley. For Harrell, party doesn’t matter – only power does. Helping Democrats in their bid to take back the governor’s office is be a small price to pay for him to keep hold of the gavel.

Now that Harrell’s scandal has reached a critical phase – i.e. Alan Wilson’s pending appeal of a judge’s decision to throw Harrell’s corruption case back to his cronies in the House – the gloves have come completely off.

Harrell’s operatives are working overtime to ruin the lives of anyone and everyone who has ever opposed them – seeking to destroy them politically and personally. There is no one they won’t target – and nothing they won’t use to target them.

For each and every one of us watching this situation unfold, we have to ask – when is enough, enough?

The Speaker’s actions are a testament to absolute corruption and intimidation on the highest scale – and the worst part of it all is there’s a better than average chance he’s going to get away with it.

A. Citizen is a column written by anonymous FITS readers just like you. To submit your own draft for publication, click here.