REASSESSING THE SCOPE, DIRECTION OF THE ONGOING S.C. STATE HOUSE INVESTIGATION …
Bombs are dropping all across the Palmetto political landscape this week – rocking the corridors of power at the S.C. State House with unexpected strength and ferocity.
More are coming, too …
The indictment of long-serving Republican State Senator (and former S.C. Senate president) John Courson – which as far as we can tell came completely out of the blue – is the latest in what we are told will be a voluminous list of indictments tied to the political empire of veteran neo-Confederate political consultant Richard Quinn.
Specifically, we’re told the investigation has obtained evidence of improper payments to elected officials flowing through the network – although the precise form of these payments has yet to be revealed.
Whatever has been uncovered, Courson’s indictment signals a major escalation of an ongoing investigation being run by S.C. first circuit solicitor David Pascoe.
Is it a legitimate escalation, though?
That’s the question …
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While we wait to see the particulars of the charges against Courson, it’s worth pointing out a couple of things …
It seems clear the Daniel Island lawmaker was engaged in various pay-to-play activities at the State House, and Pascoe certainly appears to have nailed him to the wall for it. That’s why the lawmaker is facing more than six decades behind bars …
More importantly, Merrill’s indictment fell directly within the scope of the July 2015 referral Pascoe received in this case from embattled S.C. attorney general Alan Wilson – who, ironically, could wind up being a target of the probe himself given his ill-advised obstruction of the investigation.
But Courson? The 72-year-old lawmaker’s name never appeared in the pages of the December 2013 S.C. State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) investigative report that serves as the basis for this probe.
Does that mean Pascoe has the authority to indict him? And now that we know the Democratic prosecutor has indeed expanded his probe outside of its initial parameters – will he be taking down any members of his own party?
Obviously these aren’t new inquiries …
We argued last September that Pascoe must not discriminate in dispensing justice. Specifically, we referenced how his office had been provided with an extensive list of “glaring” ethics and campaign finance violations allegedly committed by “multiple Democratic lawmakers and candidates.”
It’s not clear what happened with those files …
Last month we addressed the issue again, urging Pascoe to “follow up on these allegations and hold the lawmakers and candidates in question accountable.”
Once again we would make that case …
The biggest impediment to Pascoe bringing long-overdue justice to the corrupt political class in Columbia, S.C. is for his investigation to be perceived as partisan. Or worse, as extra-legal.
In fact it was no shock that Courson – in a statement issued through his attorney moments after she leaked the news of his indictment to The (Columbia, S.C.) State newspaper – specifically referencing the indictments against him as being partisan and of dubious legal standing.
The partisan angle was also given fresh oxygen when the S.C. Democratic party issued an ill-advised press release in the aftermath of the latest indictments saying “only Democrats can drain the Statehouse (sic) swamp.”
Personally, we don’t think the legality issue is a concern for Pascoe. He has been granted full authority by the S.C. Supreme Court – and the last time we checked grand juries are well within their rights to “true bill” indictments on anyone they believe broke the law based on the evidence they have been presented.
But the partisanship charge will not go away – at least not until Pascoe indicts a Democrat.
Fortunately, Pascoe’s probe isn’t the only game in town.
S.C. Rep. Mike Pitts is reportedly ramping up activity at the S.C. House ethics committee, a legislative self-policing panel which had languished in lethargy under its former chairman Kenny Bingham – who is also a close confidant of the “Quinndom.”
Needless to say, we will continue to keep a close eye on both investigations as they move forward …
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