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State House Probe Deepens

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FEDS INTERVIEW MULTIPLE S.C. HOUSE MEMBERS

By FITSNews || At least three members of the S.C. House of Representatives have been interviewed by federal agents in connection with an ongoing probe investigating public corruption at the S.C. State House.

As many as a dozen additional members of the S.C. House are expected to be interviewed over the next two weeks as the investigation – first uncovered by FITS – heats up.

As we exclusively reported, the  investigation centers on two primary areas – misuse of campaign funds and abusing one’s public office for personal gain.

Sources close to the scandal tell FITS a third focus of the investigation has emerged within the last few weeks – alleged vote-trading, possibly in connection with the February 2014 legislative election that saw Jean Toal win another term as chief justice of the state’s supreme court.

Once again, FITS was the first news outlet to report on alleged corruption related to that race – specifically efforts by embattled S.C. Speaker of the House Bobby Harrell to throw the election to Toal.

Harrell, incidentally, was arraigned on Monday morning in connection with a nine-count state indictment alleging misuse of campaign funds, misconduct in office and malfeasance.

In addition to the state charges Harrell – who suspended himself from office pending the outcome of his case – is rumored to be a top target of the federal probe.  In fact U.S. Attorney Bill Nettles was present at Harrell’s arraignment in county court Monday morning.

Harrell was released on his own personal recognizance after posting an $18,000 bond.

Who else are the feds said to be eyeing?

It’s unclear, although we know S.C. ways and means chairman Brian White – a liberal “Republican” from Anderson, S.C. – had some campaign finance issues in the past which were glossed over in 2011 by the same legislative “ethics” panel that whitewashed Gov. Nikki Haley‘s public corruption case in 2012.

White’s ways and means panel – which writes the first draft of the state budget each year – is also said to be a primary focus of the investigation.

“There are folks already hedging that White is going down,” one of our sources said.

Several lawmakers affirmed that report, telling FITS a heated battle was already underway for the leadership of that powerful committee.

In addition to the controversial supreme court vote, lawmakers are also reportedly receiving questions from federal agents about their proximity to several “leadership PACs” – or political action committees affiliated with legislative leaders.

These PACs are notorious for being used by ranking members as a means of rewarding their subordinates with financial assistance in exchange for their loyalty (a.k.a. “buying votes”) – and punishing those who refuse to play ball.