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Exclusive: Naming Names In SC State House Probe




Numerous current and former South Carolina lawmakers are mentioned in the still-secret pages of a S.C. State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) investigative report, according to an outline of the document verified by multiple sources familiar with its contents.

Last September, The (Columbia, S.C.) State newspaper reported that former S.C. “majority” leader Jimmy Merrill was referenced in the redacted section of this report (see our follow-up coverage of that here and here).

This weekend, we exclusively reported that another powerful former S.C. majority leader – Rick Quinn – was also allegedly referenced in the redacted section of the document.  So was his father, powerful neo-Confederate “Republican” consultant, Richard Quinn.

Both Merrill and Quinn are current members of the S.C. House of Representatives.  In fact, both lawmakers filed last month to seek reelection to their seats in 2016 – with Quinn reportedly eager to reclaim the “majority” leader post.

The fact that Quinn’s name and his father’s name are alleged to have appeared in the report is extremely telling given recent efforts by S.C. attorney general Alan Wilson – a longtime ally of the Quinns (and a top client of their consulting empire) – to shut down an ongoing probe into corruption at the S.C. State House.

That probe was first uncovered by this website in September 2014.  The following month, it led to the indictment of former S.C. Speaker Bobby Harrell on six ethics charges – but over the last year-and-a-half the narrative has shifted from Harrell’s misdeeds to allegations of selective prosecution (and now outright obstruction) against Wilson.

Wilson’s obstructionism – and his office’s bungled attempt to politicize the scandal – have made statewide headlines over the last two weeks.  His efforts have also created a legitimate constitutional crisis regarding the attorney general’s investigative authority – a case expected to be heard by the S.C. Supreme Court imminently.

But who else – aside from Quinn and Merrill – is mentioned in the December 2013 document that lies at the heart of this scandal?

According to our sources, current S.C. Reps. Derham Cole, Shannon Erickson, Deborah Long, Phillip Lowe, Mike Sotille and Mark Willis are among those sitting lawmakers whose names are referenced in the document.

Former S.C. Rep. Nelson Hardwick – who resigned his post last spring in the wake of a sexual harassment case (for which he was later indicted) – was also said to have been mentioned in the redacted pages.

Other ex-lawmakers whose names were reportedly mentioned in the report?  S.C. Speaker pro tempore Harry Cato (now a lobbyist) and sitting S.C. circuit court judge Keith Kelly.

Former “Republican” S.C. Reps. Don Bowen, Richard Chalk, Joey MillwoodWallace Scarborough and Jim Stewart were also allegedly named in the as-yet-unreleased document.

According to our sources, Cato, Chalk, Cole, Hardwick, Kelly, Long, Millwood, Sotille, Stewart and Willis were referenced in connection with alleged violations of campaign contribution limits.   Meanwhile Bowen, Chalk, Cole, Erickson, Hardwick, Kelly, Long, Lowe, Millwood, Scarborough, Sotille and Stewart were reportedly mentioned in connection with alleged violations related to contributions received from political organizations.

Based on the names provided, the alleged violations would seem to be tied to the 2008 and 2010 election cycles.

Worth noting?  It’s not yet clear whether any of these current or former lawmakers were ever made aware (then or now) of the alleged violations attributed to them in the report.

“All of it goes back to Rick and Jimmy,” one of the sources who confirmed the contents of the report told us.  “The others just got caught up in it.”

Caught up in “what,” though?

Another source who confirmed the names contained in the report described the violations allegedly committed by these current and former legislators as “Mickey Mouse,” implying they were not serious offenses.

Stay tuned … as we noted over the weekend, our network of sources has provided us with a wealth of information over the last few days on the status of this ongoing investigation.  Expect much more coverage of its inner workings in the days ahead.