Rep. Rick Quinn indicted in growing corruption probe

The latest shoe has dropped:

Longtime Republican lawmaker Rep. Rick Quinn, R-Lexington, was indicted Tuesday on two counts of misconduct in office.Rick Quinn

One charge, common law misconduct, involves $4.5 million in questionable money accepted by Quinn “from lobbyists’ principals,” money he accepted but failed to report “to the appropriate supervisory office,” the indictment says.

That charge, which alleges illegal activity by Quinn from 1999 to April 15 of this year, carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a fine at the judge’s discretion.

The other charge, for statutory misconduct in office, carries a maximum sentence of one year in prison and a $1,000 maximum fine. It alleges that from April 2010 through April 15 2017, Quinn as a public official committed criminal acts “in order to obtain a personal profit and benefit.”…

Well, given the way this investigation has appeared to be swirling around the Quinns lately, it’s hardly surprising that Rick — who represents my former district (I was later drawn into the one now held by Micah Caskey) — would be a target. So this has nowhere near the shock value of the charges against Sen. John Courson.

Shock or not, it’s never pleasing to read of such developments. As our president would say, “Sad!”

In terms of the overall investigation, the interesting thing about this is that it crosses a line — this is the first time one of the Quinns has been charged with anything.

Will a crowd now join the governor in heading for the exits, getting as far away from the Quinns as possible?

33 thoughts on “Rep. Rick Quinn indicted in growing corruption probe

  1. Brad Warthen Post author

    Here’s a question for you attorneys out there…

    Why “common law misconduct?” That sounds like an awfully vague, generic, catchall-y sort of charge. Does SC have no specific statutes that address what is being alleged? It seems like when you have something that “involves $4.5 million,” you could come up with something less vague-sounding.

    Or is this a common practice? I’m just not familiar with the charge…

  2. Lynn Teague

    Since you ask –

    The specific violation for that $4.5 million is Section 8-13-1130: “In addition to the statement of economic interests required pursuant to Section 8-13-1110, a person required to file the statement shall further report to the appropriate supervisory office the name of any person he knows to be a lobbyist as defined in Section 2-17-10(13) or a lobbyist’s principal as defined in Section 2-17-10(14) and knows that the lobbyist or lobbyist’s principal has in the previous calendar year purchased from the filer, a member of the filer’s immediate family, an individual with whom the filer is associated, or a business with which the filer is associated, goods or services in an amount in excess of two hundred dollars.”

    When H. 3186 was in the House last year we knew that there were those who tried to interpret this provision more loosely than we thought was reasonable. So, we supported including very explicit reference to consulting agreements and contractual arrangements involving businesses with which the official was associated into the bill.

    Quinn was one of the people who opposed explicitly including lobbyist payments to businesses with which an official or his/her family is associated in specific disclosure requirements under Section 89-13-1120 (11). “Associated businesses” therefore didn’t make it in the House version of H. 3186. All of (11) was lost in conference committee. Presumably Quinn wants to argue that somehow the existing law (Section 8-13-1130) doesn’t cover his $4.5 million. Apparently the Grand Jury does not agree.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Thank you for all that ‘splainin’, Lynn, although I confess I remain confused…

      So are you saying that if you violate Section 8-13-1130, the charge is called “common law misconduct?”

      1. Lynn Teague

        That would have to be statutory misconduct, as I understand it, since it is there in black and white in the statute, as quoted in the indictment. However, my usual disclaimer – I’m not a lawyer, don’t even play one on TV, I just spend a lot of time around these laws.

        His defense (echoed by some of his colleagues) appears to be that the House Ethics Committee has said everything he did is okay. I haven’t reviewed their opinions specifically to see if that is true of all of the charges against Quinn. However (with all due respect to some fine people and lawyers who have been involved in the affairs of the House Ethics Committee either as members or staff) the House Ethics Committee has on occasion been willing to adjust its understanding of the English language in surprising ways to facilitate the wishes of the members of the House. Actually, they never should have been giving opinions in the first place, that should have been left to the Ethics Commission, if nothing else in the interest of consistency across state government.

        In any case, I don’t find the statute ambiguous on the subject of money from lobbyist principals.

  3. Doug Ross

    Out of such a small group of people, why are there so many who get caught doing stuff like this? There is a simple answer. They are more likely to be corrupt because they think they won’t get caught.

    All I am waiting for is the one big fish to get caught. That will be a great day in South Carolina.

    1. Doug Ross

      And one must wonder what type of consulting and lobbying would be worth 4.5 million. People normally expect a return on investment.. gee, I wonder what they got in return?

      1. Lynn Teague

        You have hit on a matter of considerable interest. There is more room for enrichment in “consulting” than in virtually anything else in politics. When you ask about the nature of the consulting, you are often told they were “advising.” To the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars. No visible work product. Valuable advice, I hope.

      2. Philip Branton

        Hmm…..well, one big return is a billion in tax incentives without a referendum vote. Unaware voters and taxpayers had no clue Boeing would turn around and then finance Iranian jet sales. What do you think was used as “collateral”..?
        How about Dominion Pipeline easements without property owners understanding all royalty residuals..?
        I could go on…

      1. Doug Ross

        There’s one big tuna that I hope is caught in the net for his decades of self-serving corruption.

      2. Philip Branton

        Brad……we want the entire school of fish. Every civil servant who stands by and allows these actions….

        Every wife, husband,…or father.

        Every editor who holds information from publication…..

        Every Advertiser who uses the media to keep taxpayers in the dark and manipulate media narrative….

        …and just for fun….every utility wonk who does not bury the lines so our trees get butchered…..and says diddly when VC Sumner is billions over budget…

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          I’m curious… when have you ever seen an advertiser that “uses the media to keep taxpayers in the dark and manipulate media narrative.”

          I suppose there might be some advertisers out there who WANT to do something like that, but I’ve never seen anything like that happen.

          Of course, I’m a newspaper guy, and maybe you’re thinking of some other sort of media…

        2. Brad Warthen Post author

          By the way, as for “editor who holds information from publication”…

          You realize, of course, that that’s what editors do all day, every day — if you choose to describe it that way.

          Publishing anything, and especially something so finite, so limited as a newspaper, is a winnowing process. You go from an almost unlimited universe of possible stories, and combinations of words and facts within each of those stories, down to the very, very few things that you have time (staff time) and space for.

          This always struck me when people would complain about some item that was left out of the paper. People would particularly go ballistic if some regular feature — say, a comic strip — was judged to be problematic and left out for a day. “How DARE you make such decisions for us!” some would howl.

          And I would always think, Don’t you realize that’s what we do all day, every day — exercise professional judgment in figuring out what few things would make it into the paper, and in what form?

          And if editors did not do that, you wouldn’t have a newspaper — or a magazine, or website, or whatever. A huge part of the service that an editor provides to the reader is to sift through all the junk out there that the reader doesn’t have time for, and present the most important, or most interesting material in a format that the reader does have time for.

          And the same principles work, in a different way, with the “editorless” social media. Each of us shapes our own feeds in order to try to guarantee that we get all the stuff we want, and none of the stuff we don’t. For myself, I have a rule of thumb: I’ll always keep the number of feeds I’ll follow on Twitter under 600. Each time I hit 600, because I’ve found some valuable new feeds, I’ll take the time to cull the less active feeds, and that keeps my flow of information dynamic and relevant to me.

          Each decision to add a feed or keep one is an act of trust — I’ve decided I can rely on this feed to give me good stuff that keeps me informed and interested.

          Readers make the same gestures of trust toward the editors of the publications they choose to read.

          And when that trust breaks down completely, forget about it — civilization is over. Which is why it concerns me so much to see trust breaking down to the extent that it does today. We have more and more people who see themselves as isolated individuals who don’t trust ANYBODY. And you can’t have a functioning, free society that way…

          Sorry. You prompted me to mount one of my little soapboxes….

  4. Brad Warthen Post author

    Speaker Jay Lucas has suspended him. Here is his statement from earlier this afternoon:

    “I have received criminal indictments against Representative Rick Quinn (District 69-Lexington) and have suspended him from the South Carolina House of Representatives effective immediately. This suspension is in pursuant to state law and will remain in place until the matter is resolved or the seat is declared vacant.”

    1. Doug Ross

      How many of you co-workers in your entire career have been indicted for work related criminal activity? Now compare that to the percentage of South Carolina legislators who have been indicted. What other profession (aside from prostitution) has a higher number of criminals?

      But I’m just a cynic.. refusing to admire these selfless public servants for their charitable contributions to society.

      1. Claus2

        Only solution… term limits. These guys get into office for a few years and think they’re untouchable and move from public servant to self servant. Political office wasn’t meant to be a career position.

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          That’s one vote for one of Doug’s favorite “solutions”…

          The only positive good that term limits would achieve would be that pols who are in their last term would be more likely to do the right thing, rather than positioning themselves to win their next primary.

          In would, in some cases, lead to political courage — but only if the person in question didn’t plan to run for another office.

          That, of course, is the OPPOSITE of what a lot of term-limit advocates think. They think term limits would put lawmakers “more in touch with the people.” That’s based on populist misconceptions. Most officeholders are excessively mindful of what their constituents (at least, those who vote in their primaries) want, and it’s the perpetual campaign that does it.

          Knowing they couldn’t run again could free them to do what’s right. A current example: Jason Chaffetz isn’t running for re-election, so he feels more free now to confront Trump’s outrages:

          Chaffetz is prepared for resistance in the Trump administration. He issued a threat Tuesday that represents a significant escalation between Congress and Trump: a subpoena. If the FBI doesn’t hand over its Comey-Trump communications, Chaffetz indicated he will issue a legal directive requiring them to, or else face fines, jail time or a vote of contempt of Congress.

          “Truth,” Chaffetz told The Post’s Carol Leonnig Tuesday night about what he’s seeking. “Let’s see how real these memos are…. And see where they take us.” (Worth noting: Chaffetz could be departing Congress at any minute, leaving this investigation in limbo.)…

          So yeah, that’s one benefit of being a lame duck. But I don’t think it’s enough to make term limits a good idea…

          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            By the way, to elaborate on this point: “Most officeholders are excessively mindful of what their constituents (at least, those who vote in their primaries) want…”

            Term limits isn’t the cure-all. But the one thing that would be close to that is reapportionment reform. Move the real contest from the primary back to the general election — in other words, force them to care about what ALL of “the people” think, not just extremists in each party) — and you’ll see better politicians making better decisions…

          2. Claus2

            “The only positive good that term limits would achieve would be that pols who are in their last term would be more likely to do the right thing, rather than positioning themselves to win their next primary.”

            Well at least we’d get one term out of them.

      2. bud

        What other profession has a higher number of criminals?

        The financial industry’s CEOs are pretty much batting a thousand. Most have escaped prosecution but they are de-facto criminals just the same.

        1. Claus2

          “The financial industry’s CEOs are pretty much batting a thousand. ”

          Actually I’d put hat number at less than 1%.

      3. Brad Warthen Post author

        I’ll turn that on its head: What other line of work but public service has a higher degree of accountability?

        The rules, and the constant scrutiny, make for an environment in which any wrongdoing, real or perceived, is FAR likelier to be exposed.

        As for my co-workers — in the private sector, the more likely thing to happen is that they will be fired, or at least demoted, for wrongdoing.

        As for my personal experience, the cardinal sins of journalists tend not to be crimes. They tend to be things that undermine the integrity of the newspaper, and are punished for that reason. Some examples:
        — A new sports columnist who, having finally gotten the job he’d coveted, suffered writer’s block, and turned to ripping off material from other columnists across the country. He was caught and fired.
        — An editor who contacted a gubernatorial candidate and shared poll results before the paper had release the poll numbers. As I recall, this was ostensibly to get a reaction, but it looked like collusion, and the editor lost his position. (I’m trying to remember whether he was canned completely from the paper — this was LONG ago — but I know he was replaced in the important job he held.)
        — A reporter who, totally by chance, was sent (the police reporter was busy on a breaking front-page story) to get the daily police blotter at the cop shop and, as it happened, one of the charges on the blotter (something fairly small-time) was against HIM. He told the officer going through the blotter with him that we wouldn’t be needing that item. A source in the police department told us about it. He lost his newsroom job, but the publisher found something for him in advertising.

        That’s the kind of trouble journalists get into.

        I can think of only one reporter who got in trouble for a “crime.” He was in a rural bureau, and there was a newspaper rack outside his office. The carrier caught him taking papers out of the rack (which he did because the paper didn’t provide him with copies for doing his job), ratted on him and he was fired. Those of us who were used to having a stack of papers available at our disposal thought that way harsh, but it was stupid to take from the rack, because that was stealing from the carrier.

        The only colleague I recall going to jail is Cindi Scoppe, and that was for doing her job — protecting a source…

        1. Doug Ross

          “I’ll turn that on its head: What other line of work but public service has a higher degree of accountability?”

          Every line of work has higher accountability – first, because most workers don’t get to make the rules that define their own review and punishment. Second, because there are people and processes in place to monitor them.

          Are political office holders drug tested?
          Do we get to do background checks on political office holders?
          Are there financial audits of government agencies by outside auditors?
          Do government agencies produce any documents similar to a corporations 10-K and 10-Q?

          For some reason you think that because so many of these political crooks get caught, that it makes it seem more accountable. That’s bizarre. They get caught because they are crooked.

          1. Claus2

            How many in the private sector can sexually harass subordinates… “because that’s how women get ahead at the State House”.

        2. Claus2

          Did your job as an Editor have accountability? Was that a daily requirement or could you slack off and let anything go out in the paper every few days?

          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            Of course it did. I just gave several examples of that.

            In fact, there are forms of accountability that journalists AND politicians are subject to that most other people are not. It’s about appearances rather than substance. I had to sign a document annually swearing that I wouldn’t, for instance, get involved in a political campaign (and lots of other stuff). And for their part, pols have rules against letting anyone buy them lunch (or a cup of coffee) — which would be kind of bizarre in most lines of work.

            When I was in Wichita, we had this running joke about one of our executive editor’s rules, regarding unsolicited freebies that came into the office. He said if you didn’t value it, you could keep it. But if it was something you really WANTED, you couldn’t.

            So when something kind of cool would come in, it would be sitting on somebody’s desk, and we’d stand around saying, “I don’t want that. Do you? Because I certainly don’t…”

  5. Brad Warthen Post author

    I see that Rick is using the “partisan witch hunt” approach toward Pascoe.

    It would indeed help the credibility of the investigation if the prosecutor would charge a Democrat. But that seems unlikely, if the probe is circling around the Quinns.

    Although the Quinns have worked with a Democrat or two. I’m thinking Steve Benjamin in 2010.

    But the odds seem against that, given the preponderance of Republicans in their network…

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      We saw this before, during Lost Trust in 1990, only back then the shoe was on the other foot.

      As the indictments started rolling out that year, Democrats started complaining that U.S. Attorney Bart Daniel (a Bush appointee) was targeting just Democrats.

      But eventually some Republicans were indicted as well…

      By the way, in case you don’t remember, one-tenth of the Legislature was eventually charged…

  6. Jeff Mobley

    After reading the indictments, it seems to me the charge involving the $4.5 million is the most serious charge.

    Of course, I have no idea whether Quinn is guilty of any of these things, but let me just ask something, relating to one of the other items:

    If my dad and I ran a political mail marketing business, and I decided to run for office, would it be illegal for me to use my family’s business? I’m not asking if it would be unwise or ill-advised. Would it be illegal?

  7. Doug Ross

    Depends, I think. If the family business charges higher fees than market rates and campaign funds are used to pay those higher rates, then one could call that money laundering. It’s an all too easy way to funnel money from the campaign into their own pockets. At a minimum, there should be an audit done on funds paid and actual services rendered.


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