WE’LL KNOW SOON ENOUGH …
S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson wants everyone to believe he’s a “boy scout” who would never let politics interfere with his job as the state’s top prosecutor … and he could very well be just that.
In fact as of this writing, we’ve seen nothing to indicate Wilson is anything other than what he says he is … a straight-shooting “just the facts” lawyer with a legitimate interest in cracking down on public corruption in the Palmetto State.
In that regard, Wilson is 1-for-2 (sorry for the sports metaphor … it’s fantasy baseball season here at FITS world headquarters).
Two years ago his office successfully brought down S.C. Lt. Gov. Ken Ard – who was running a cash-for-contributions scheme originally exposed by FITS. Later that year, though, Wilson badly whiffed when he took a pass on a much bigger ethics scandal involving Gov. Nikki Haley – then he surprisingly teamed up with Haley to support her package of watered-down ethics reforms (all of which the governor previously violated).
Wilson argued he had no jurisdiction in Haley’s case – although it seems clear he could have gone after her if he wanted to. After all Haley was exceedingly vulnerable at the time Wilson’s office was called upon to investigate her many corrupt dealings – which were whitewashed by a so-called “ethics” panel in the S.C. House of Representatives.
Now Wilson is in the midst of a statewide grand jury investigation into S.C. Speaker of the House Bobby Harrell – who certainly appears to be guilty as sin on a wide range of corruption charges.
Last week, this case blew up when it was revealed two powerful attorneys for Harrell were seeking a closed door audience with a circuit court judge – part of an effort to have Wilson removed from the case.
Then a pro-Harrell website published a scathing attack on Wilson – arguing that the Attorney General should not only give up the case against Harrell, but resign himself over his own corruption issues.
It’s not hard to follow the political calculus on this on …
A month ago Harrell went to the mattresses on behalf of incumbent Supreme Court justice Jean Toal in a hotly contested judicial election – helping provide her with a huge victory over associate justice Costa Pleicones. Assuming this circuit court judge grants the request from Harrell’s attorneys, the most compelling logical conclusion to draw would be that Toal is returning the favor.
Quid pro quo.
The only wild card is Wilson.
It was universally presumed among Palmetto political observers that the first-term GOP Attorney General was going to take a pass on the Harrell case – which is why his decision earlier this year to send it to the grand jury caught everyone off guard. That element of surprise led to a very public, high-profile spat between Wilson and Harrell over whether the former gave the latter proper notification of his intentions to move forward with the case.
Harrell argued vociferously that he had been misled by the Attorney General – while Wilson argued that his office had notified Harrell’s attorneys as soon as it decided to move the case to the grand jury.
Wilson’s decision also couldn’t have come at a worse time for the Speaker – hitting the day before he gaveled in the second session of the 120th S.C. General Assembly.
But was – or more accurately, is – all of this nothing but carefully orchestrated political theater? Could the conflict between the two leaders be for show?
“The fight over the notification issue raised a big red flag with me,” one veteran prosecutor told FITS. “The back and forth over that just seemed … well, staged. It looked like two people in search of a conflict.”
Wilson’s office is on the record adamantly opposing any secret meeting related to Harrell’s case – and adamantly opposing any motion to have him removed. And at this point we believe him to be telling the truth.
After all, he’s staked his future aspirations on the outcome of this case …
But there’s a growing chorus of conspiracy theorists – including several in the Tea Party movement (where the complaint against Harrell originated) – openly speculating about Wilson’s true motivations.
“Bad gut feeling,” one told us. “Like I can see this unfolding the way a thousands scandals have unfolded before it.”
And how is that?
“If Wilson gets booted the case is dead,” she said. “He can rail about it and fight it up the appellate ladder but it’s dead. And whether he was the ‘boy scout’ (FITS) seem to think he is – or whether he was in on it from the get-go – it doesn’t matter. He was forced off regardless. How will we ever know where he really was (on the case)?”
Sources close to Harrell are not buying the theory … they say Wilson is aggressively pursuing the Speaker at the expense of what they believe to be the facts of the case. In fact they believe Wilson is every bit as corrupt as Harrell – that his “witch hunt” is part of its own conspiracy.
“He’s pushing (the investigation),” one told us. “The only ‘fix’ he’s in on is the ‘fix’ to frame Bobby – to bring Bobby down for what in no way, shape or form add up to indictable offenses.”
We’re probably naïve for writing this … but we believe Wilson is doing the job he was elected to do. And for the record we don’t believe he is a part of a conspiracy either to sink – or save – the Speaker. We also don’t believe the integrity-challenged institutions of the S.C. House of Representatives and the S.C. Supreme Court are ready for the firestorm they would create if they conspired to remove Wilson from the case.
At the end of the day we believe the facts surrounding Harrell’s corruption are amply self-evident … which is why Wilson brought the case to the grand jury in the first place.
What do you think? Vote in our poll … and then post your thoughts in our comments section below.