As we look forward to the state Supreme Court hearing oral arguments in the clash over Attorney General Alan Wilson’s power to investigate House Speaker Bobby Harrell, you may want to review how we got here.
If you have the time, you might peruse Corey Hutchin’s 4,500-word explainer for The Center for Public Integrity, headlined “An ethical mess in South Carolina.”
Corey sets the scene thusly:
On a recent Thursday, a light rain was washing against the office window of South Carolina’s first-term attorney general, Alan Wilson. On the floor near his desk, about a dozen thick black binders spilled out of the bottom shelf of a bookcase and onto the carpet. Inside each of them: supporting documentation from a 10-month state police investigation into the sitting House speaker, Bobby Harrell, a fellow Republican and arguably the state’s most powerful politician.
“And that’s just a preliminary investigation,” said Wilson, gesturing to the pile.
The attorney general will not say what’s inside the binders, and no one outside a handful of lawyers, prosecutors, law enforcement agents and grand jurors who are sworn to secrecy have seen what’s in the report. The speaker of the House himself hasn’t seen what’s in it either, although he’s called for Wilson to release the voluminous file to the public, maintaining he’s done nothing wrong and decrying the grand jury probe as political in nature.
But the question of what’s in those binders is but one of many queries that have riveted the Palmetto State as it struggles to cope with a scandal unprecedented even by the standards of this often ethically challenged state. Whether Wilson, the state’s top prosecutor, will be able to continue an investigation he turned over to a state grand jury in January has itself now come into question. A state court judge who was elected by the legislators — South Carolina is one of just two states that allow that — issued a stunning ruling last month that said the AG lacks jurisdiction over the powerful speaker. The judge ordered Wilson to shut down his probe. Wilson has appealed to the state Supreme Court, calling the judge’s order “unprecedented in American law and unsupported by any known legal authority,” and has vowed to press on. The state’s highest court has set a June 24 date to hear oral arguments….
You will already know a lot of what he has to say after that, but you may learn some things, too. I haven’t had a chance to read the whole thing myself, although I intend to…