State House Dragnet: Who’s Next?

WHICH DOMINOES WILL FALL NEXT IN PALMETTO PUBLIC CORRUPTION PROBE? By FITSNEWS || A year ago, S.C. Speaker of the House Bobby Harrell – along with S.C. Sen. Hugh Leatherman – was one of the two most powerful men in the Palmetto State. Today?  He’s out of a job … Harrell…


By FITSNEWS || A year ago, S.C. Speaker of the House Bobby Harrell – along with S.C. Sen. Hugh Leatherman – was one of the two most powerful men in the Palmetto State.

Today?  He’s out of a job …

Harrell pleaded guilty this week to six of nine public corruption charges, earning himself three years of probation, hefty fines and a ban on seeking office for the duration of his punishment.  Was it a fair rap?  Our intrepid columnist Liz Gunn doesn’t think so.  But the part of Harrell’s deal that sent shivers through the South Carolina political establishment was the “cooperation agreement” he signed with the government.

All of a sudden, the man with perhaps the most concise, comprehensive knowledge of the rampant corruption that exists in state government … has turned state’s evidence.

“A**holes are puckering all over state tonight,” one lawmaker told FITS, referring to colleagues in the S.C. General Assembly who are fearful Harrell might rat them out.

Harrell’s plea deal comes at a critical juncture in an ongoing federal-state investigation of corruption at the S.C. State House.  In fact it could signify a major expansion of “the probe,” which was first uncovered by FITS (and subsequently reported on HEREHEREHEREHERE and HERE).

Working alongside S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson and other state entities, federal investigators acting under the authority of U.S. Attorney Bill Nettles have been looking into allegations of corruption at the S.C. State House for the past nine months (at least).  This investigation – which is expected to result in indictments prior to the end of the year – centers on three main areas.  Those are, 1) misuse of campaign funds by members, 2) abusing public offices for personal gain and 3) vote-trading (or vote-selling) tied to the controversial February 2014 legislative election that saw Jean Toal win another term as chief justice of the state’s supreme court.

Other judicial elections (scandals also broken exclusively here on FITS) are said to be part of “the probe …”

Another key focus?  Legislative political action committees like the Palmetto Leadership Council – which was affiliated with Harrell (and whose former executive director may be the “star witness” government prosecutors have been relying on to make their cases).

But who is being targeted?

“Chatter is all over the board,” one lawmaker told FITS.  “Trying to decipher.”

The names most frequently mentioned in association with the ongoing investigation are S.C. Reps. Gilda Cobb-Hunter, Bill Sandifer, Jenny Horne, Jimmy Merrill, Kenny Bingham and Brian White – although as we’ve stated all along it’s not immediately clear whether these individuals are being targeted by the probe or sought out for informational purposes.

There are also reports S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley – whose public corruption case was whitewashed by an ethically compromised jury of her former colleagues two years ago – may also be a target.

“She was the worst offender of pay to play,” one lawmaker told FITS, referring to Haley.

Indeed … Haley did far worse than Harrell and got away with it.  Specifically, the governor was accused of multiple abuses of power during her six years as a member of the S.C. House of Representatives from 2005-11.  For starters, she was accused of illegally lobbying on behalf of Lexington Medical Center, her former employer from 2008-10.  Haley was also accused of illegally lobbying on behalf of Wilbur Smith Associates – an engineering firm with extensive business before the state – and failing to report nearly $50,000 in income received from the company between 2007-09.

In fact FITS has spoken with several lawmakers who said they were willing to sign affidavits attesting to Haley’s illegal lobbying on behalf of her employers – but were never asked to do so by the S.C. House “Ethics” Committee.

Haley also has a political action committee working on her behalf –  “The Movement Fund.”  This group has run political ads on her behalf and also paid out big bucks to members of the governor’s campaign organization, which some are alleging is illegal campaign coordination.

Stay tuned …


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Just another guy October 24, 2014 at 8:37 am

Just don’t forget the senate and we can just clean house. I still believe Ford could give the Feds the goods and take down the Senate as well.

anonymous October 24, 2014 at 8:46 am

Nothing is going to happen. Everything is fine. Nobody else is going to be arrested. Yesterday was just an act. Your Judge Casey Manning presided over the fake guilty plea just like he presided over stopping your Attorney General from laying hands Robert Harrell. So stop with all the nonsense and speculation. The writing is all over the wall. People are wasting their time thinking South Carolina is going to drain its own swamp. People are wasting their time thinking Federal prosecutor Nettles is going to do something, too. He is too tight with your chief supreme court justice. All of you are stupid fools. Get a clue.

anonymous October 24, 2014 at 10:08 am

I agree. It’s all over now. So sad. Nettles will protect Toal and NO ONE in state government can touch her. I suspect part of the deal is that Harrell will not tell what he knows about Toal and that Manning would be the patsy judge. Pathetic situation.

Leatherman and Toal won. Game over.

Same ol' Same ol' October 24, 2014 at 10:44 am

Third that motion. Wishful thinking on some folks’ part. Same ‘o, Same ‘ol, move along, nothing to see here.

HD October 24, 2014 at 8:58 am

I’m having a difficult time imagining what Bobby Harrell would know about other Members’ campaign accounts. I can imagine that he would have pretty extensive knowledge about judicial vote trading, if it went on (and it probably did to some extent). The thing is, that’s pretty small potatoes, “corruption” wise. It also is a state law offense, not federal.

Tunes'n'News October 24, 2014 at 8:59 am

Even if no one else goes down, hopefully legislators will be more honest and careful on expenses. And maybe real ethics reform will happen. Those would be victories.

shifty henry October 24, 2014 at 9:00 am

“A**holes are puckering all over state tonight, In fact it could signify a major expansion of “the probe.”
Will is sending us a coded message…..

Anonymous October 24, 2014 at 9:05 am

Its rest stop bathroom stall code.

On Track October 24, 2014 at 9:03 am

Land developers in Charleston report funny things going on with their smart phones. I wonder if that is NSA and/or the FBI listening in?

Darth Sillyness October 24, 2014 at 9:10 am


Just another girl October 24, 2014 at 9:52 am

Amen to that!
She is much more corrupt than Harrell and he is horrible!
I can attest to the fact she is a liar! Anyone who cant see that is an idiot!

Nölff October 24, 2014 at 9:12 am

Get them all out.
Replace them with people that actually have a sense of morality.

WW October 24, 2014 at 9:53 am

You are dead on !

JohnQ October 24, 2014 at 9:58 am

Impossible in a “red state”.

Elfego October 24, 2014 at 10:12 am

This is not a Red State it is a crooked state. Go back in time and look for the party switches,see where folks come from and this all started in my opinion when folks jumped on the Reagan bandwagon. South Carolina has always been a Democrat State and to be truthful like all politics they go where the money and power lead them!

Red=Corrupt October 24, 2014 at 10:14 am

It’s a red crooked state

vicupstate October 24, 2014 at 11:18 am

Where there is no two-party competition, there will be the highest level of corruption. The power is concentrated on one side, which is very conducive to abuse. There are no checks and balances in place when one only party is capable of winning. Chicago is one example, SC is another.

If the voters demand accountability by voting out the unworthy (regardless of party or ideology), then the ruling party must stay clean, or they will lose their control in the next election. That safeguard is gone when voters simply vote based on label and mindless rhetoric. See SC-1 for a great example. They put Sanford back into a position of power, rather than end his political career when they had the chance. Now he is not even opposed for re-election.

Jack October 24, 2014 at 11:31 am

BS Republicans run this state. Republicans are in general more corrupt than Democrats; not all, but most. That is because they represent the interests of the rich, and those are the people who can come up with the money to pay. You don’t have much to sell when you are advocating for the middle class and the poor.

It is even worse where Republicans have absolute power in a state. Then its Katie bar the door. The Richs and the Kochs of the world come running with money to spend.

Republican Follies October 24, 2014 at 12:42 pm

A typical silly ass Republican.

Republicans have controlled SC for many years now;however,they have this weird habit of declaring any fellow Republican they don’t like Not a Republican.

Take the latest REPUBLICAN crook Bobby Harrell.His family has been Republicans for over THIRTY years,His Father ran for Congress in a Republican primary twenty years ago.Yet now?Well he wasn’t REALLY a Republican.Give me a break.

It’s goofy ,silly and ridiculous.Sure there are crooks in both parties,but it is the REPUBLICANS who run state government here in SC and,thus, it is no surprise that their shenanigans merit the most attention.

FastEddy23 October 24, 2014 at 9:16 am

You folks have ” none of the above” on your ballots, right?

CorruptionInColumbia October 24, 2014 at 9:58 am

That should be a legitimate option. If a majority of voters select that option, it should result in that office being vacant until a suitable choice appears in the contest and is voted on.

vicupstate October 24, 2014 at 11:21 am

Move to Nevada. They already have that. I believe they have had it since at least 1980.

To my knowledge it has never been invoked (ie, ‘None of the Candidates’ has not won a plurality).

FastEddy23 October 24, 2014 at 12:29 pm

I have given a great deal of thought to that very item: moving my businesses and home to Nevada. The only thing keeping me from that: I like to fish and I would like to keep my sailboat, thus I am still considering a move to South Carolina instead. (You folks also have a huge business opportunity: Boeing needs workers and sub-contractors.)

(“None of the above” has come in second place several times in Nevada … and that sure keeps the “progressive” Fascists on their toes.)

CorruptionInColumbia October 25, 2014 at 2:24 pm

If you don’t mind my asking, are you in the battery business? If you would rather not answer I do understand and beg your pardon for the intrusive question.

FastEddy23 October 27, 2014 at 1:07 pm

Well, I am interested in batteries. I have in a distant past worked to manufacture several battery powered devices. I have also built power supplies to charge batteries and occasionally write tech articles for trade magazines about such.

The reason(s) I mention Tesla and Boeing in the same paragraph is Tesla is building very advanced batteries and Boeing has problems with the APUs on the 787 (and others), thus it might seem a natural “fit” to have them working together on solutions … in South Carolina … customer meeting supplier on common turf, etc. (= even more high tech jobs!)

CorruptionInColumbia October 28, 2014 at 12:43 pm

Cool! Among other things, the technology and improvements in same are a source of interest to me regarding everything from small flashlight batteries, to car batteries, to modern gel-cells for powering devices for the household.

FastEddy23 October 28, 2014 at 2:56 pm

This is where the kitchen table laboratory comes to the fore :>)

Other interesting home/lab potentials: Graphene and Carbon nano-tubes as a more “Perfect Conductor”. “Water” batteries (Gerald Pollack videos). Electric power from thermal-voltiac resources. Acoustic wave fluid filtration and “dry sonar” imaging for pets [:-). “The Trekkie Triicorder”. …

There are huge opportunities in Newton/Maxwell/Lord Kelvin world of Physics that have been completely overlooked by main stream.

CorruptionInColumbia October 28, 2014 at 6:12 pm


FastEddy23 October 29, 2014 at 11:42 am

QRZ: “who is calling?” … There are other boards where we can hook up … But I would have to also ask QRZ.

CorruptionInColumbia October 29, 2014 at 2:59 pm

Just checking to see if we may have shared a hobby.

FastEddy23 October 30, 2014 at 12:07 pm

Probably not. I have not played with radio since first year of college in the early ’60’s … too busy sharpening pool sticks.

FastEddy23 October 24, 2014 at 12:26 pm

Vacant positions resulting in a “none of the above” vote should be resolved by the voters at the next regular election, otherwise the greedhead taxsuckers will “nominate” someone to fill in.

Rocky October 24, 2014 at 9:26 am

Who will get nailed and who won’t. Whom ever donates to the pay Harrell’s bills fund, will be OK. Those who don’t – schwing!!!

RQAssociate October 24, 2014 at 9:27 am

Not really sure how you can mention certain legislators and NOT mention Rick Quinn. Fat Boy has always had his hand in the cookie jar.

Mark October 24, 2014 at 9:29 am

Who benefits from all of this? House leadership being decapitated, suspicion everywhere, new leadership just learning the ropes?

Senator Leatherman. The biggest crook of them all. It is all a game and he is the winner., just as he planned.

Pat October 24, 2014 at 10:05 am

Well played my friend Hugh, well played.

TrickyDick October 24, 2014 at 9:44 am

Once upon a time the Dems were as corrupt as this. Then we had Operation Lost Trust. Time for another sting.

Clemson Upstate October 24, 2014 at 9:55 am

Yes and yes! The lobbyist and so called consultants need to be scrutinized closely also!

mark October 24, 2014 at 10:07 am

Has Haley timed her early November trip to India to avoid prosecution? Will the trip be a one way flight? I mean, she had four years to go to India and did not. Odd timing.

Thomas October 24, 2014 at 10:08 am

Give us Toal, McConnell, Leatherman and SC voters will give you, Bobby Harrell, Sanford’s House seat!

mark October 24, 2014 at 10:10 am

Thanks to Mr. Rainey for getting the ball rolling. John Rainey, SC rock star.

Thomas October 24, 2014 at 10:16 am

Hey guys, load up on APT…a maker of hazmat suits.

Rocky October 24, 2014 at 10:54 am

I’m just not seeing this on SC Political Blog – and since that’s the vehicle of truth – I don’t even believe Harrell is resigning. Else SCPB would have it.

truthmonger October 24, 2014 at 11:50 am

Wow. The State newspaper must be wrong, too, because they had it front page!

Rocky October 24, 2014 at 1:08 pm

Tangos blog is truth. Don’t you know that?

It's a great day in S.C. October 24, 2014 at 11:00 am

I’m so proud South Carolina made news in The New York Times again! The best quote: “He remained unrepentant in a statement
Thursday.” That boy’s got a great future ahead of him.

The New York Times

October 24, 2014

In South Carolina, Guilty Plea by House


Page A21

PHOTO – Robert
W. Harrell Jr., left, at a hearing Thursday in Columbia, S.C. He pleaded guilty
to illegally using campaign funds. Credit Gerry Melendez/The State, via
Associated Press

House Speaker Robert W. Harrell Jr. of
South Carolina pleaded guilty Thursday to illegally using campaign funds,
resigned his elective office and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors in a
potentially wider investigation into statehouse corruption.

Mr. Harrell, 58, a Republican from
Charleston and one of the most powerful figures in state government, was
elected to the House in 1992 and elected speaker in 2005. At a hearing Thursday
morning in Columbia, the state capital, he was sentenced to six one-year prison
terms for his guilty pleas on six misdemeanor charges of using campaign funds
for personal expenses.

But the sentence was suspended in
exchange for cooperation with federal prosecutors and South Carolina’s First
Circuit Solicitor’s Office. In a five-page plea agreement, Mr. Harrell agreed
to give “thorough and complete debriefings” of his knowledge of “unlawful
activities.” Mr. Harrell was also placed on three years’ probation.

The agreement sent a fresh wave of
jitters through Columbia, where a wider investigation is believed to be
underway. The State newspaper, citing unnamed law enforcement and legislative
sources, reported this month that state and local law enforcement had been
interviewing other House members about possible campaign violations and illegal

“There’s some nervousness around town
that several folks are in jeopardy,” said Mark E. Tompkins, a political science
professor at the University of South Carolina.

South Carolina government is dominated
by Republicans, and Mr. Harrell’s plea is one of a number of recent cases
involving high-ranking party members. Lt. Gov. Ken Ard resigned in 2012 after
pleading guilty to charges similar to Mr. Harrell’s. Thomas Ravenel, a
Republican turned independent, resigned amid allegations of drug use and
eventually pleaded guilty to cocaine charges in 2007.

In 2009, Gov. Mark Sanford, a Republican,
was censured by state lawmakers for infamously
disappearing from office to visit a paramour in Argentina.

In September, a grand jury indicted Mr.
Harrell on nine counts, alleging, among other things, that he used campaign
funds to reimburse himself for “nonexistent” plane trips. One count alleged
that he used roughly $94,000 in campaign funds for personal use related to his
privately owned plane.

He had long maintained his innocence, and
also tried to block the state attorney general from investigating him, arguing
that the matter should be handled by a House ethics committee. The State
Supreme Court rejected that argument in July.

He remained unrepentant in a statement

“I have agreed to this today to end
what has been a two-year nightmare,” he said. “This has been incredibly hard on
my family and me, and it is time for it to end.”

As part of the agreement, Mr. Harrell
must pay a $30,000 fine, forfeit his campaign account to the state general fund
and pay back roughly $94,000.

Mr. Harrell, who was running for
re-election in his district in greater Charleston, also promised to not seek or
hold public office for three years.

Nunya October 24, 2014 at 11:30 am

I was thinking that having to forfeit his campaign account would be a big deal, but I guess not. Interesting how he has managed to spend all but $6K of his campaign account…raised about a quarter mil this ‘cycle’ and spent all of it?
Curious if it’s legal for him to use his campaign account for his legal fees related to this? He spent $80K in April, from campaign contributions, on legal fees…

Philip Branton October 24, 2014 at 11:08 am

**** ….in the year 2021……at a Harrell, Folks, Post and Courier Bar-b-que….*****

Bobby: “…ya know Wil, I really appreciate the heat you took and the moxy you had to garner some funds to keep FITSNEWS percolating…”

Wil: ” Bobby, I didn’t know what was really going on to be quite honest. To finally realize how you were planted all along to bring the web of influence and financial leverage to the light of day was rather stunning…”

Mrs Harrell: “Yes Wil, …I can tell you when Bobby told me on the beach a little over two years ago …I thought I was gonna KILL him…!!! To put our family through all of that media churn and not to be told..? I jumped up and sat on top of him and punched him as hard as I could. Geez, thinking that I was gonna have to get two jobs to support us after his conviction while he just laid around all mopey …!! To be playing possum……God, I was mad….!!! ”

Mrs Folks: ” How did it feel when he finally got that Lobby strategist position. Did that make things a little more bearable..?

Mrs Harrell: “you mean the one that funnels funds to Fitsnews via advertising and “donor” contributions…? ”

Mrs Folks: “No I mean the one that funnels the G5 jet time so Bobby can fly all over talking to Big Oil supporters..!”

Mrs Harrell: “Maybe you and Wil can go with us on Tuesday to our next corporate conference…”

Bobby: ” Wil …..I think the Houston Texans are at home…..need tickets…?”

Homer October 24, 2014 at 11:20 am

My legislator tells me the FBI asked him about Merrell last week, so Merrell must be one of the ass****s. He says Merrell works out of his house on Daniels Island — Geechee Communications, Llc. So maybe the feds are also auditing Merrell’s home-based business expenses on his federal tax returns, with SLED auditing the state returns. Maybe Merrell will go down like Al Capone by the feds.

ELCID October 24, 2014 at 11:59 am

Seeing Haley on TV telling everyone that she’s trying to push thru Ethics Reform and the Legislature is stoping her from doing it: made me almost gag laughing at her. That Hypocrite is like a major cartel Drug Dealer trying to publicly tell people she’s contributing to stop drug abuse.

Nothing To Change October 24, 2014 at 2:10 pm

Yeah. Its like she is saying everyone in the General Assembly are crooks, liars, and thieves – just not her. Ethics reform is a joke. Nothing really worth the time will come out of any reform when it is the crooks, the liars, and the thieves making laws that are for them. Hence, the road to nowhere. You want change, get rid of the big players by throwing criminal charges in their faces.

joker October 24, 2014 at 6:55 pm

The Feds got rid of the crooks, liars, thieves and whores in Operation Lost Trust. They even made new ethic laws and now look. Graft all over the place. They will never stamp it out.

Palmetto Roach & Rat Tavern October 24, 2014 at 1:31 pm

The exterminators have left the building. All is safe now.

Native Ink October 24, 2014 at 2:02 pm

No Limehouse, Grooms, or Stavrinakis on that list yet? I’m disappointed…

Sconset987 October 24, 2014 at 4:12 pm

So where do you think we are headed? A new Governor next year named Henry McMaster?

Ok Reality Time October 24, 2014 at 4:14 pm

The only reason things went this far? Because of the dozens of complaints sent to Washington, DC. Otherwise, Nettles would not have shown up with Wilson and Wilson would not have done anything. That is one of the secrets now out of the bag. Nobody else is going anywhere. Over the next several months the story about feds this and feds that, it all fades into the unforgotten Land of Who Cares. Its all now reverting right back to business as usual. You get to keep your corrupt general assembly, your corrupt SLED, your corrupt prosecutors. Unless, however, dozens of citizens and lawyers send more demanding letters and complaints to D.C.

Squishy123 October 24, 2014 at 7:35 pm

So just like the Lexington Mafia investigation? Where nothing has happened once Jakie and Metts got kicked out of office?

ThunderHorse11 October 24, 2014 at 5:19 pm

“The Movement Fund” ??? Is that Trikki Nikki’s PAC or the name of the probe?

Commonman October 24, 2014 at 7:28 pm

Ask the staff. They know where the rotting flesh is buried and they wash the dirty laundry. They do the bidding of their patrons. Follow the money.

Andy1 October 25, 2014 at 8:29 am

Every once in a while a blind squirrel finds an acorn, mostly because it falls and hits him on the head. Really now, this is still South Carolina; keep expectations low.

Pendleton October 25, 2014 at 10:35 am

Will needs to back to his archives and compile a list of the five or ten top scandals of the past few years and repost them again. With the feds and SLED snooping it might just present some positive developments. #Clean_SC!

Soft Sigh from Hell October 25, 2014 at 11:21 am

Ol’ Jake may be glad now that he was booted out of the way when he was.


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