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One of the most frustrating things about politics in South Carolina is the refusal of the state’s political establishment to hold elected officials accountable when they frequently and flagrantly abuse the public trust.

A prime example?  This year’s “show trial” of S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley, who was cleared by her former colleagues on the S.C. House Ethics Committee despite overwhelming evidence of her guilt.  Sadly this sort of miscarriage of justice is par for the course in South Carolina – one of the most corrupt states in America.

But why?  What’s stopping our leaders from doing their duty each and every time their colleagues (or former colleagues) are busted doing something illegal?  Seriously … didn’t they swear an oath to uphold the laws?  Yes … they just don’t apply those laws to themselves.

The reason?  The doctrine of “mutually assured destruction,” which we saw at work during the Haley circus earlier this year.  The interconnectivity of money and influence within the political process guarantees that every action has a reaction – often an unequal and disproportionately negative one.

Bobby Harrell: Obstructing Justice?

In other words, if you speak out against a politician during their scandal – be prepared to suffer the consequences.  And in a state where ethical lapses are the norm as opposed to the exception, there are plenty of opportunities for reprisal. Accordingly, would-be critics don’t say anything because they either a) don’t want “make an enemy” or more often, b) don’t want to see their own dirty laundry exposed.

Like we said … mutually assured destruction.

This doctrine is alive and well as it relates to the latest (but by no means the greatest) South Carolina political scandal – the campaign fund reimbursement drama that’s ensnared powerful S.C. House Speaker Bobby Harrell (RINO-Charleston).

The Speaker – one of the state’s most influential proponents of government growth – has been growing his own bottom line via a series of questionable travel reimbursements over the last few years.  In fact he’s basically acknowledged his guilt by returning a small portion of the funds he skimmed from his account.

And while Harrell may not be able to compel people to come to his defense (he had to use his wife for that), he has been able to keep would-be critics silent.

For example the chairman of the “ethics committee” – which ought to be excoriating Harrell right about now – said it best when he told reporter Renee Dudley of The (Charleston, S.C.) Post and Courier that he “can’t afford” to talk about the allegations against the Speaker.  This, of course, is the same chairman who refused to investigate alleged campaign finance illegalities committed by S.C. House Ways and Means chairman Brian White.

Of course S.C. Rep. Roland Smith (RINO-Aiken) is speaking literally when he said he “can’t afford” to discuss the Harrell scandal.

He “can’t afford” to discuss it because if he did, Harrell and his powerful political action committee would stop contributing to Smith’s campaign account.  Not only that, Harrell could yank Smith off of the House budget-writing committee or strip him of his ethics committee chairmanship – thus dramatically reducing his power at the S.C. State House.

Seriously … he’s done it before.

So … is Harrell flexing his muscle once again?  Issuing threats in an effort to minimize the damage from his campaign finance scandal?  According to our sources, “yes.”  In fact we’ve heard from several lawmakers who have told us that Harrell has threatened to cut off financial support to any “Republican” candidate who dares to criticize him.  We’re also told that he has reached out to his Democratic allies (which are legion) and threatened to target any of their candidates who attempt to make his scandal an issue in their campaigns.

Harrell’s threats appear to be working.  While there’s been plenty of grassroots uproar over his scandal, we’ve received precisely one press release from a legislative candidate about it.

And of course there will be no investigation …