During his victorious reelection campaign in 2016, liberal Democrat-turned-“Republican” Luke Rankin of Horry county, South Carolina spent tens of thousands of dollars with the consulting empire of Richard Quinn, a former GOP kingmaker whose political influence in the Palmetto State was unrivaled.
Quinn was the godfather of Palmetto politics … a strategist without peer and a powerbroker without parallel. His empire – “the Quinndom” – wielded unmatched influence. Often harshly.
Quinn’s empire collapsed in 2017-2018, though, as a sprawling investigation into government corruption – ProbeGate – picked off many of his top clients one-by-one. Among those felled by the investigation? His son and former business partner, former S.C. House majority leader Rick Quinn.
The hammer fell on the godfather, too …
The elder Quinn, 75, was charged in October of 2017 with criminal conspiracy and failure to register as a lobbyist, but those charges were dropped in December 2017 as part of controversial plea deal. In early April of 2019, however, we exclusively reported that Quinn might not be off the hook related to the investigation. Specifically, we reported that he may have “fallen into a perjury trap” during his April 2018 testimony before a statewide grand jury investigating his empire.
Two weeks after our report was filed, Quinn was in fact indicted by a statewide grand jury on eleven counts of perjury and one count of obstruction of justice. A year later, those charges against him are still pending.
Meanwhile, Rick Quinn’s controversial sentencing in connection with the investigation is still under appeal.
While those legal battles rage on … the Quinn family remains very much a part of the Palmetto political universe.
A little over two years ago – in March of 2018 – we exclusively reported on the formation of a new company called Spring Strategies. As we noted at the time, this company was formed by Reagan Quinn Smith and Rebecca Quinn Mustian, Richard Quinn’s daughters. According to documents filed with the office of the S.C. Secretary of State (SCSOS), the new Quinn company was formed on October 20, 2017 with Rebecca Mustian’s husband, Ben Mustian, serving as its registered agent.
Mustian … Mustian … where have we heard that name before?
Oh, right. Last summer, the Mustians’ son (and Richard Quinn’s grandson) – 16-year-old Parker Mustian – was arrested by local law enforcement and expelled from the private school he attended in Columbia, S.C. after starring in a pair of alarmingly racist videos. And while we did not condemn his family in connection with these videos, many used the occasion of his arrest to remark on the well-known neo-Confederate history of the “Quinndom.”
The family has not been heard from since … until now.
Based on an anonymous tip, we pulled the April 10, 2020 campaign finance disclosure forms filed by Rankin with the S.C. State Ethics Commission (SCSEC). On those forms, we found three payments made by his campaign to Spring Strategies – two on February 6, 2020 for $4,630.14 and $10,000, respectively, and a third on February 7, 2020 for $12,500.
The first payment is listed as paying for “fundraiser work, sponsor board, (and) mailings” while the second payment is listed as paying for “consulting, social media, website, (and) email contact.”
The third payment is listed as paying for “newsletter research, printing, (and) mailer.”
Take a look …
(Click to view)
To be clear: We do not begrudge Rankin for dropping nearly $30,000 with Spring Strategies. As we noted in our post two years ago regarding the formation of this company – it has every right to do business in the Palmetto State.
“This new firm has every right to establish itself on its own merits … not the alleged (or acknowledged) demerits of previous companies owned by its family members,” we noted at the time. “That’s certainly the approach this news site will take in covering it – and the clients it represents.”
But questions persist regarding what role (if any) Richard Quinn may be playing in the new company. And state lawmakers are asking these questions with increasing frequency following Rankin’s starring role in the implosion of the South Carolina Senate earlier this month.
“That was a classic Quinn move,” one of Rankin’s colleagues in the Senate told us, referring to the shameless obstructionism employed by a clique of senators on behalf of embattled government-run utility Santee Cooper, which has been manipulating the coronavirus crisis in an effort to save its own skin.
Informed that Rankin was a client of the Quinn-affiliated consulting firm, the lawmaker chuckled.
“Well, that explains that,” the lawmaker said.
This news outlet maintains that Rankin’s real problem is not who he pays to run his campaigns – but rather the über-liberal votes he has cast as a member of the S.C. Senate over the last twenty-seven years. And clearly, we are greatly disturbed by his ongoing subservience to the leaders of Santee Cooper – who have sunk to new depths of duplicity in the midst of the coronavirus crisis as part of their desperate bid to sabotage a possible sale of this debt-addled utility to the private sector.
Rankin’s machinations on behalf of Santee Cooper are nothing short of contemptible.
As for the Quinns, we have no doubt this report will irritate their notoriously thin skins … however our news outlet has been working on another, broader story related to this ongoing saga that we believe the “family” will respond to much more favorably.
So stay tuned for that report …
In the meantime, we would encourage voters in Rankin’s coastal district (.pdf) to take note of the company he keeps … but not to lose focus on the terrible votes he has cast and the harmful positions he has taken over the years (including his ongoing allegiance to a utility that lied to the state and cost its ratepayers billions of dollars in the process).
That is the real reason he should be voted out of office this spring …
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Banner: Columbia SC Photographer Travis Bell