If South Carolina newspaper columnist Cindi Ross Scoppe’s goal was to refute the perception that she is nothing but a shill for the disgraced political consulting empire of Richard Quinn – she’s not off to a very good start.
Scoppe’s credibility is at a new nadir after she was exposed in open court last week as the journalistic fluffer for “the Quinndom,” which is at the heart of an ongoing, multi-jurisdictional investigation into public corruption in the Palmetto State.
You know, #ProbeGate.
Quinn’s empire – which has been implicated in all manner of corrupt pay-to-play activity – is slowly unraveling. And his testimony before a statewide grand jury next month threatens to further unspool things – leaving dozens of influential elected officials, corporate chieftains and top government bureaucrats to spend their holiday season sweating over what he might say.
Is Scoppe focusing on any of this? Better yet, is the longtime columnist for The (Columbia, S.C.) State newspaper at long last acknowledging her glaring partiality toward Quinn and his sycophants and how it has colored her commentary over the years?
No. Not at all.
In fact, at the very moment she desperately needed to demonstrate some impartiality, Scoppe has decided to vent her spleen against a familiar whipping boy: Former S.C. Speaker of the House Bobby Harrell.
Harrell (below) resigned his influential office in October 2014 after pleading guilty to six ethics violations related to his campaign finance reporting.
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(Via Travis Bell Photography)
Harrell was the first casualty of #ProbeGate – and has since turned into one of its star witnesses. Actually, he was the original target of the investigation – at least until the script got flipped on those who initiated the inquiry.
What did Harrell do? A lot. Most notably, he was busted improperly reimbursing himself from his campaign account for tens of thousands of dollars related to dubious air travel expenses (Harrell is a pilot).
This wasn’t a criminal act – or an abuse of tax dollars – but it was a glaring ethical lapse.
Harrell has referred to his ethics violations (both then and now) as clerical errors that wound up becoming part of a dispute over the “proper use of campaign funds.”
According to Scoppe, he’s lying (both times).
“Once again he completely mischaracterized what he did,” she wrote this week, arguing that Harrell engaged in “a level of mendacity that is breathtaking.”
Ah, mendacity …
Scoppe’s points are perfectly valid. Harrell deserves to be exposed for his inconsistency and his ethical shortcomings. And to her credit – she actually did a decent job recapitulating these shortcomings and documenting his inconsistency.
Oh, and the mendacity.
Furthermore, we would argue Harrell has given Scoppe an opening for such criticism. His adoption of an “I didn’t do anything wrong” defense strikes us as vastly inferior to the “I learned from what I did wrong” response.
Particularly in this political climate …
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(Via Travis Bell Photography)
Furthermore, there’s a “hook” to Scoppe’s broadsides against the former Speaker – notably his flirtation with a return to elected office (which was exclusively reported by this news site earlier this month).
The discussion is timely, in other words. Newsworthy. And given its prior “kid glove” treatment of Harrell, Scoppe could credibly argue that his hometown paper – the hard-charging Post and Courier – wasn’t going to bring any of this information back to light.
Unfortunately for Scoppe (and her readers), she has lost all credibility when it comes to these matters.
As timely and well-reasoned as her column on Harrell may have been, no one is buying it.
We can’t find anyone who views her latest musings as anything other than a diversion – one spoon-fed to her by her longtime allies in the Quinndom in an effort to deflect attention from their ongoing misfortunes.
Which is the problem with being a conflicted scribe …
Scoppe’s criticisms of Harrell should absolutely be part of the discussion moving forward as the former Speaker ponders his reentry into politics. But since she chose to ignore/ enable far greater corruption as it was being perpetrated by her political intimates – she doesn’t get to throw those punches anymore.
At least not without looking like a fool … and not without further cementing her new political identity: “Quinndi” Ross Scoppe.
Obviously no one in this business is going to be perfectly consistent. We all have biases – interpersonal, ideological, etc. We all spin. We all fall short of the mark – including this news site and its founding editor.
But in Scoppe’s case, the leanings have become glaringly transparent … and transparently hypocritical.
And at a time when she desperately needed to reassert her editorial independence, Scoppe once again showed she was in the tank for the Palmetto state’s most preeminent political crime family.
WANNA SOUND OFF?
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