Reporter John Monk of The (Columbia, S.C.) State newspaper scored a huge scoop this week when he reported exclusively that Richard Quinn – once the most powerful political influencer in South Carolina – was facing a litany of fresh charges in connection with ProbeGate, an ongoing investigation into public corruption at the S.C. State House.
Quinn’s empire – known as the “Quinndom” – boasted unrivaled power and near-unprecedented influence in the Palmetto State as recently as five years ago. At its apex, Quinn’s political consulting firm listed dozens of state legislative leaders and local officials among its clients – as well as U.S. senator Lindsey Graham and governor Henry McMaster.
Everything came crumbling down in 2017, though, when Quinn’s stable of pay-to-play politicians became the central focus of ProbeGate – an inquiry which focused on the extent to which certain elected officials were peddling their influence on behalf of wealthy special interests before the S.C. General Assembly.
Three former legislative leaders with ties to Quinn pleaded guilty to corruption charges and resigned their offices in connection with this investigation: Former S.C. Senate president John Courson, former House majority leader Jimmy Merrill and former House majority leader Rick Quinn (Richard Quinn’s son). A fourth legislative leader who was part of the Quinndom – former S.C. House judiciary chairman Jim Harrison – was convicted of perjury and misconduct in office in October of 2018.
One of Harrison’s convictions – the one for misconduct in office – was remanded by the S.C. supreme court recently, but at a hearing earlier this week the 70-year-old ex-lawmaker pleaded guilty to that charge and was ordered to begin serving an eighteen-month jail sentence on both raps.
In April 2019, Quinn himself was charged with perjury and obstruction of justice in connection with the investigation – for allegedly lying to grand jurors about his role in the scandal. His indictment came just two weeks after my news outlet exclusively reported that he had fallen into a possible “perjury trap” during his April 2018 testimony before a statewide grand jury.
S.C. first circuit solicitor David Pascoe was originally responsible for overseeing the criminal case against Quinn, but three months ago S.C. attorney general Alan Wilson referred all remaining criminal cases connected to ProbeGate to S.C. seventh circuit solicitor Barry Barnette.
According to Monk’s report (which is based on a statewide grand jury indictment issued seven weeks ago), Quinn is facing twelve counts of perjury and two counts of obstructing justice in connection with the ProbeGate investigation.
Specifically, Quinn is accused of lying to the grand jury about payments and kickbacks made to multiple politicians in his former network – and about money his son received from his consulting firm. He is also accused of lying about political work he performed for elected officials during the course of the investigation – including work for Wilson’s office.
As with anyone accused of committing any crime, Quinn is considered innocent until proven guilty by our criminal justice system – or until such time as he may wish to enter some form of allocution in connection with a plea agreement with prosecutors related to any of the charges that have been filed against him.
If these new charges against Quinn are any indication, though, it seems clear Barnette is zealously pursuing justice in this case. Justice which, quite frankly, is long overdue.
As my news outlet recently reported, though, this scandal remains very much unresolved as it relates to the corporate entities which pullled the strings of Quinn’s pay-to-play politicians. I am referring specifically to so-called “corporate integrity agreements” solicitor Pascoe reached with multiple defendants during his stint as the lead ProbeGate prosecutor.
These controversial agreements allowed corporate defendants to pay fines directly to the prosecutor’s office in exchange for a promise not to be prosecuted.
I have consistently maintained that such arrangements are well outside of ethical bounds. These defendants – or individuals associated with them – should have been indicted by the grand jury. In fact, the ProbeGate grand jury made it abundantly clear that its members found probable cause to indict these corporate defendants.
“Corporate entities retained Richard Quinn for the purpose of gaining access to and influence over public officials, and by failing to report Quinn’s services, influenced the outcome of legislative matters with no accountability or disclosure to the public,” the grand jurors who investigated ProbeGate wrote in a report released in October of 2018.
The failure of this investigation/ prosecution to hold these corporate defendants accountable is utterly inexcusable – and calls into question the legitimacy of the probe itself. As I noted earlier this year, “allowing corporate entities to basically buy their way out of criminal charges is not ‘integrity.’” In fact, it is no better than the shady dealings of the Quinndom …
Stay tuned … my news outlet began exclusively reporting on ProbeGate as far back as 2014 and broke most of the major developments in connection with the case. I plan on staying on top of this story as it moves forward, keeping readers apprised of the latest news as well as continuing to call for accountability for everyone involved in this scandal.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR …
Will Folks is the founding editor of the news outlet you are currently reading. Prior to founding FITSNews, he served as press secretary to the governor of South Carolina and before that he was a bass player and a dive bar bouncer. He lives in the Midlands region of the state with his wife and seven children. And yes, he has LOTS of hats (including the above-pictured Washington Senators’ lid).
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