WHERE WILL THE HAMMER FALL NEXT?

Yesterday’s indictment of South Carolina lawmaker Rick Quinn – long-anticipated in Palmetto political circles – has dramatically elevated the stakes of an ongoing criminal investigation into corruption at the S.C. State House.

“Another shoe drops,” one veteran State Senator told us. “Who’s next?”

That is indeed the question …

The “Quinndictment” – greeted defiantly by its target – laid out in sweeping detail what prosecutors allege was a cash-for-influence scheme in which the influential official’s family consulting firm received millions of dollars in undisclosed payments from special interests in exchange for favorable government actions.

Paraphrasing prosecutors’ allegations, reporter Glenn Smith of The (Charleston, S.C.) Post and Courier noted that Quinn “used his public office as a multimillion-dollar money funnel that enriched his family’s powerful political empire while doing the bidding of shadowy corporate interests in the Legislature.”

Serious stuff, in other words …

Quinn is the fourth lawmaker to be ensnared by the #ProbeGate investigation – which was exclusively unearthed by this website way back in September of 2014.  Two of those lawmakers – former S.C. majority leader Jimmy Merrill and State Senator John Courson – are allies of Quinn and his father, powerful neo-Confederate consultant Richard Quinn.

In fact the elder Quinn – who was named in the indictment of Courson – is viewed by many as one of the prime targets of the ongoing investigation.

That could be one reason why S.C. governor Henry McMaster – a longtime Quinn client who originally said he was standing behind the embattled advisor – abruptly severed ties with him last Friday afternoon.

So where will the hammer fall next?

Good question …

In announcing the indictment of Quinn on two counts of misconduct in office, S.C. first circuit solicitor David Pascoe made it clear his investigation was “ongoing.”

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(Via Travis Bell Photography)

That’s an understatement …

As we noted in our coverage yesterday, #ProbeGate is clearly just beginning to ramp up.  As we reported exclusively earlier this year, agents of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) are said to be actively involved in the investigation – and early last month it was reported that three Republican solicitors had come on board to assist Pascoe in managing the probe.  Then there was the raid launched against the offices of Richard Quinn and Associates – and sweeping subpoenas of government agencies and various lobbyist principals that have done business with the firm.

There are also rumors of immunity deals being struck with multiple witnesses – and some of those currently facing charges are reportedly contemplating their next moves.

Which seems smart given the preponderance of evidence stacked against them.

In addition to the elder Quinn, much of the speculation as to the future direction of the investigation revolves around S.C. attorney general Alan Wilson – a longtime Quinn client who effectively torpedoed his promising political career last spring by actively obstructing Pascoe’s probe.

Specifically, Wilson blocked Pascoe last March when the latter attempted to convene a grand jury for the purpose of indicting two Quinn lieutenants.  Shortly thereafter, Wilson fired Pascoe and attempted to replace him with a different prosecutor (one who declined to take the job).  His office then clumsy attempted to politicize the case – while Wilson himself angrily and baselessly attacked Pascoe’s integrity.

Pascoe took the case to the S.C. Supreme Court – and won – but that hasn’t stopped those under the gun from continuing to obstruct (and continuing their efforts to have him removed from the case).

In fact, a hearing has been scheduled next week before S.C. circuit court judge Knox McMahon to hear the latest arguments on that front.

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(Pic: S.C. Attorney General)

Ironically, Wilson was the one who referred this matter to Pascoe in the first place – back in the summer of 2015.

That referral was made after Pascoe successfully managed the indictment and plea deal of #ProbeGate’s first victim – former S.C. Speaker of the House Bobby Harrell, who resigned from his influential position in October 2014 after pleading guilty to six ethics charges.  Harrell has since turned state’s evidence, and is cooperating with investigators.

Incidentally, it was Harrell’s refusal to appoint the younger Quinn to an influential legislative committee post that served as the impetus for this entire drama.

Quinn has denied that allegation, though, saying he “never asked” Harrell to appoint him to the powerful S.C. House ways and means committee.

As we exclusively reported back in February, the Quinns allegedly conspired to engineer Harrell’s fall from grace – an outcome we applauded – only to see the ensuing investigation implicate them and their allies in similar (if not worse) alleged misdeeds.

Last December, Merrill was suspended from office after being hit with a thirty-count indictment alleging an assortment of pay-to-play schemes.  In March, Courson was suspended after being slapped with a three-count indictment accusing him of illegally converting campaign cash for personal use as part of a “kickback” scheme with the elder Quinn’s firm.

Now the younger Quinn is facing the music …

Aside from looming legal consequences, #ProbeGate is also fraught with political peril for the “Quinndom” and its clients (current and former).  The investigation has already turned what should have been a slam dunk 2018 “Republican” gubernatorial election for McMaster into a competitive race – with more candidates eyeing possible entry into the race.

Stay tuned …

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