As my news outlet reported last week, South Carolina first circuit solicitor David Pascoe – a Democrat mulling a bid at statewide elected office – caused a stir when he addressed a meeting of the Greenville County Republican Party (GCGOP) on January 7, 2022.
“The Republican platform is about exposing corruption,” Davis said. “And we are going to expose Republicans and Democrats alike.”
Specifically, Davis promised Pascoe would “name names.”
Did Pascoe deliver the goods, though? Not really …
The diminutive Sicilian indeed “named names,” but most of them were invoked in the past tense – in the context of previously concluded inquiries. In fact, the vast majority of Pascoe’s address was essentially a recapitulation of his work on ProbeGate – a major investigation into corruption at the South Carolina State House that started out with tremendous promise but fizzled out a little over two years ago.
“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 Quinn and his cronies wrote in a report released in October of 2018.
ProbeGate led to the resignation of numerous influential state lawmakers – speaker of the House Bobby Harrell, former S.C. Senate president John Courson, former House majority leader Jimmy Merrill, former House majority leader Rick Quinn (the son of Richard Quinn) and former S.C. House judiciary chairman Jim Harrison.
With the exception of Harrison, though, none of them saw the inside of a jail cell – and Harrison only did time because he refused to plead guilty like the others.
Gotta love that judicial leniency, right?
The bigger problem, though? Pascoe failed to go after the corporate interests pulling the strings of these politicians. In fact, it was actually much worse than that. These entities essentially paid Pascoe off via so-called “corporate integrity agreements” – direct payments to his office accompanied by promises to behave better in the future.
In return, Pascoe agreed not to prosecute them criminally.
Wait … what?
That’s right … despite a grand jury finding probable cause to indict these corporate defendants, Pascoe let them off the hook. And did so in a manner that filled the coffers of his office.
“Allowing corporate entities to basically buy their way out of criminal charges is not ‘integrity,’ in fact some would argue it is no better than the sort of behavior Pascoe was prosecuting in the first place,” I noted in a piece lambasting the special prosecutor over these agreements a few years back.
S.C. supreme court justice John Few has also assailed the agreements, accusing Pascoe of accepting “hundreds of thousands of dollars from major South Carolina corporations on the promise not to prosecute them for conduct the state grand jury found probable cause to believe is criminal.”
Again … that is enabling corruption, not exposing it.
To be clear: I support GCGOP leaders in their efforts to expose corruption. Just as I supported Pascoe for years when he was leading the ProbeGate inquiry. He did some good work, and it is important to acknowledge that.
But doling out slaps on the wrists to the puppets – while letting all of the puppet masters go free – is hardly the sort of thing we should be celebrating.
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. He lives in the Midlands region of the state with his wife and seven children. And yes, he has LOTS of hats (including that vintage St. Louis Browns’ lid pictured above).
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