HUGE CHUNKS OF REPORT ARE REDACTED, SOURCES CITE “ONGOING INVESTIGATIONS”
By FITSNEWS || It makes little difference now that former S.C. Speaker of the House Bobby Harrell has pleaded guilty to six of nine public corruption counts – and resigned his office – but for those of you keeping score at home, the S.C. State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) released the investigative report that formed the basis of Harrell’s prosecution this week.
The forty-two page document – obtained my multiple media outlets from SLED under the S.C. Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) – details the agency’s pursuit of the complaint forwarded to them by S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson in February of 2013.
The report barely touches on allegations of influence peddling made against Harrell regarding his pharmaceutical business – which was alleged to have received preferential treatment from state government. Instead, the report focuses almost entirely on campaign expenditures – particularly those related to travel.
In September 2012, reporter Renee Dudley of The (Charleston, S.C.) Post and Courier ran a story alleging Harrell reimbursed himself from his campaign account for dubious flight-related expenses (Harrell is a pilot). How much? More than $325,000.
In the wake of the Dudley report, the S.C. Policy Council – a limited government think tank based in Columbia, S.C. – submitted a formal complaint against Harrell to Wilson’s office that cited a variety of alleged offenses. This complaint formed the basis of the SLED report.
Harrell has framed his campaign finance violations as a “fundamental disagreement over the proper use of a campaign account to fly a private aircraft to conduct state and campaign business.” His critics have accused him of “theft.”
Of interest? The final nine pages of the report are blacked out – which a source close to the agency tells FITS is “due to ongoing investigations.”
That’s right … “investigations.” Plural.
Also of interest? The redactions in the report begin shortly after mention is made of India Null – the former director of a political action committee (PAC) affiliated with Harrell. Null is rumored to be among the “star witnesses” of a joint federal-state investigation into corruption at the S.C. State House.
FITS was the first website to report on the existence of the federal-state investigation – way back on September 15. Since then we’ve published multiple follow-up reports (HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE and HERE).
As part of his plea agreement with prosecutors, Harrell agreed to a three-year probationary period during which he will not seek elected office. He also agreed to cooperate with investigators during their pursuit of other corruption cases.
Harrell’s case was the biggest political soap opera of the year – dominating headlines for months after Wilson referred the case to a statewide grand jury back in January. In May, an ethically compromised circuit court judge ruled that Wilson had to shut down his probe and let a corrupt panel of S.C. House members handle the investigation (the same legislative panel that whitewashed S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley‘s ethics scandal two years ago).
Wilson blasted that ruling – joining a chorus of critics of this corrupt self-policing mechanism.
“There is absolutely no way this case will get a fair hearing in the S.C. House of Representatives,” he told FITS at the time.
In July, the S.C. Supreme Court ruled that Wilson’s office had the authority to investigate Harrell – although it did refer the question of whether Wilson could remain on the case back to the lower court. Months later, however, it was revealed that Wilson had directed another prosecutor – first circuit solicitor David Pascoe – to take over the case.
BOBBY HARRELL SLED REPORT (.pdf)