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#ProbeGate: Another Ex-Lawmaker Called To Testify

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HEAT RATCHETING UP …

Another former South Carolina lawmaker has been called to testify before a statewide grand jury investigating allegations of public corruption.

Multiple sources familiar with this ongoing probe tell us that former S.C. Rep. Jim Harrison – who represented S.C. House District 75 (map) from 1989-2012 – was summoned to appear before the secretive panel this week.

Earlier this week we exclusively reported that former S.C. Reps. Tracy Edge and Thad Viers had also been summoned to provide testimony before the grand jury.  Prior to that, last month we reported that the panel had received testimony from Richard Quinn – a neo-Confederate consultant whose political empire effectively runs the Palmetto State.

Quinn and his son, S.C. Rep. Rick Quinn, are widely viewed to be the main thrusts of the probe – stemming from their names appearing in the still-secret pages of a December 2013 S.C. State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) report.

Last week, The (Columbia, S.C.) State newspaper picked up on our exposure of Quinn’s empire – known as “The Quinndom” – noting the two Republicans were “named in a state investigative report about possible corruption at the State House.”

As we reported yesterday, Edge and Viers were reportedly questioned regarding alleged “cash for votes” scams allegedly conducted by (or under the auspices of) Quinn’s empire.

What did prosecutors want with Harrison?

It’s unclear – although sources familiar with the probe tell us investigators had been furnished with copies of various statements of economic interest filed during his tenure as a lawmaker.

“He made a lot of money from some interests with very close ties to the Quinns,” a source familiar with the probe told us.

For his part, Harrison doesn’t seem worried.

“Nothing of consequence was asked or testified about,” he told us, referring to his testimony as “more background than anything.”

When Harrison retired prior to the 2012 election cycle, he was chairman of the S.C. House’s judiciary committee – a tremendously influential post.  Upon his resignation, he was appointed code commissioner and director of the S.C. Legislative Council, the agency responsible for drafting and codifying the mountain of legislation that passes through the S.C. General Assembly each year.

That’s another very influential position.

Where is the investigation going?  That’s a good question …

As far as we can tell, the grand jury testimony remains confined to the original referral received by solicitor David Pascoe back in 2015 – although certain leaks would seem to indicate Pascoe’s net has broadened.

Obviously that’s a double-edged sword for the Democratic prosecutor.

The probe has been silent since last December, when S.C. Rep. Jimmy Merrill was slapped with a thirty-count indictment covering a wide range of alleged pay-to-play offenses – which, collectively, could land him in jail for more than six decades.  The breadth and depth of the Merrill indictment – and the specter of additional charges to come against him – shook the S.C. State House to its very foundations.

Merrill’s name also appeared in the 2013 report.  In fact according to that document, he is the one who first drew investigators’ attention to the “Quinndom” and its alleged pay-to-play machinations.

Prior to Merrill, the probe ensnared former S.C. Speaker of the House Bobby Harrell.  After pleading guilty to six ethics violations in October 2014, Harrell resigned his office, received three years of probation and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors – which he has done.

Stay tuned … things have clearly heated up this week with regard to this ongoing investigation (including increasing pressure on Pascoe from GOP lawmakers to bring it to a conclusion).

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