180-DEGREE TURN …
Throughout the drama that is #ProbeGate – an ongoing investigation into corruption in South Carolina state government – left-leaning columnist Cindi Ross Scoppe of The (Columbia, S.C.) State newspaper has been a reliable mouthpiece for the embattled political consulting firm of influential GOP strategist Richard Quinn.
Quinn’s firm – based in Columbia, S.C. – represents (or has represented) some of the Palmetto State’s most powerful politicians, largest government bureaucracies and entrenched special interests.
The key question? Whether it has represented them legally …
Up to this point in the ongoing drama, Scoppe’s answer to this question has been an unequivocal “yes.”
Just last week, in fact, she penned a column responding to the indictment of Quinn’s son – state representative Rick Quinn – on a pair of criminal misconduct charges. Scoppe’s piece was so one-sided in its parsing of state ethics law that it might as well have been copied and pasted by Quinn’s defense attorneys and submitted as a motion to dismiss the charges against him.
“Most of the allegations in the State Grand Jury indictments handed down against (Quinn) either lack enough detail to make heads or tails of,” Scoppe wrote. “Or else (they) say he did things that state law does not seem to prohibit.”
Really? That’s not how we interpreted them, but …
Scoppe went on to suggest special prosecutor David Pascoe was attempting to “criminalize the (state’s) ethics act” by using civil violations as a pretext for seeking criminal misconduct charges. She then addressed in detail how Quinn might wind up getting convicted on these charges “merely for doing things that look bad – without ever violating any specific law.”
Scoppe concluded her column by invoking the “permission slip” defense this website addressed in detail a week ago.
“I suspect a prosecutor would have a particularly difficult time convicting (Quinn) for the actions that ethics officials told him were legal,” she wrote.
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Again … we disagree. For starters, those who granted these permission slips could conceivably wind up in more trouble than those currently under indictment. But even if they don’t, there are clear questions as to whether certain permissions were granted out of
According to Scoppe, though, the reason Quinn might be found guilty in this case isn’t because he did anything wrong, but because of “how the public feels about politicians.”
Yeah … talk about going “all-in.”
This week, though, something changed.
Following a bizarre day-long court hearing last week, Scoppe has completely flip-flopped on the Quinns – publishing a new column this weekend that marks a 180-degree turn from where she was a week ago.
Don’t take our word for it, though …
“I have no idea what I was thinking last week,” Scoppe wrote in her latest piece.
Now, according to Scoppe, the indictments against Quinn have begun “to look much stronger than they did when they were handed down.”
Not only that, she says the charges filed against the Lexington lawmaker suggest he “has been not just violating the law but living a lie: lying to his fellow legislators, lying to his constituents, lying to anyone who asked about his relationship with his father’s political consulting empire.”
Wow … what changed? Good question …
Our impression of last week’s court drama? We felt as though the Quinns might have actually picked up a little bit of ground by virtue of their attorneys’ oft-suggested contention that a recent raid launched against the firm by agents of the S.C. State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) was sloppily executed.
We don’t believe SLED’s raid was sloppily executed, but S.C. circuit court judge Knox McMahon allowed attorneys for the Quinns to repeatedly suggest that it was during last week’s hearing. That helped create a new narrative in this drama – one that we suspect will benefit the Quinns in the short-term whether they can ever prove it in the longer-term.
Scoppe, though, appears to be going “all out” on her erstwhile allies – which could be a damaging development for them.
While Scoppe’s columns are not widely read outside of the S.C. State House “echo chamber,” they are required reading for lawmakers and power brokers in Columbia. Also, the fact she is so quickly and so publicly backing off of her prior support for the Quinns strikes us as something of a “weather vane” moment in this ongoing drama.
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