The other shoe drops: Richard Quinn indicted (Jim Harrison, too)


I looked away for a moment on this slow day, and suddenly there was news.

The other shoe has dropped in prosecutor Pascoe’s corruption probe. Actually, several shoes (so maybe that’s not the best metaphor, unless we’re talking about a well-shod octopus):

Republican consultant Richard Quinn Sr., for years a kingmaker in S.C. politics, was indicted Wednesday by the State Grand Jury on a felony charge of criminal conspiracy, as well as a charge of illegal lobbying, or failure to register as a lobbyist.

Since the late 1970s, Quinn, 73, has been one of South Carolina’s premier political consultants. An insider’s insider, he has helped elevate many S.C. politicians to power, nearly all Republicans. His clients have included Gov. Henry McMaster, Attorney General Alan Wilson, U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, and U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson, all Republicans, as well as Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin, a Democrat.

Wednesday’s indictments capped months of behind-the-scenes activity by Special Prosecutor David Pascoe, the State Grand Jury, and nine State Law Enforcement Division agents. Pascoe of Orangeburg, the elected 1st Circuit solicitor, also enlisted the help of three other elected solicitors from around the state.

The illegal lobbying indictment issued against Quinn says he “did attempt to influence the action or vote of members of the S.C. General Assembly by direct communication on behalf of entities which employed, retained or appointed defendant’s businesses and defendant did not register as a lobbyist …”

Until now, the bombshells had been dropping all around the elder Mr. Quinn, but not on him. Now, the direct hit has come.

Jim Harrison, former House Judiciary Committee chairman and current head of Legislative Council, was also indicted, along with ex-Rep. Tracy Edge. And additional charges were brought against Sen. John Courson and the younger Quinn, Rep. Rick.

Yet another shock to the very heart of the S.C. GOP. What next? Pascoe said, “this is still an ongoing investigation.”

Jim Harrison in 2006

Jim Harrison in 2006

29 thoughts on “The other shoe drops: Richard Quinn indicted (Jim Harrison, too)

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Again, there’s nothing “great” about it, except to people who hate government so much that they are delighted to find corruption in it.

      There’s a huge difference here. Lost Trust was largely a prosecution of the “Fat and Ugly Caucus,” a bunch of guys who reveled in their own sleaziness.

      That’s not what’s happening here, once you get past Bobby Harrell.

      For instance, Doug likes to “name names,” but the people being indicted now are not the people he or anyone else would normally name. That’s what’s weird, and disturbing, about it.

      Few would have said “Jim Harrison” if asked “Who’s dirty?” And fewer would have named John Courson.

      I was chatting with a Democratic consultant at a soccer game last night, and I said something about being surprised at Harrison being caught up in this. He said maybe so, but the one that shocks HIM is Courson. And that’s pretty much what you hear from anyone who knows our Legislature…

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        The “reason” that consultant gave for not being AS surprised by Harrison is his involvement with the S.C. Policy Council.

        And to me, that’s not a reason. I tend to disagree with the Council on policy (they’re more Doug’s kind of folks), but that doesn’t make people affiliated with it corrupt

      2. Doug Ross

        “Few would have said “Jim Harrison” if asked “Who’s dirty?” And fewer would have named John Courson”

        So who do YOU think is dirty if those two aren’t/weren’t? Give me one name of someone you wouldn’t be surprised if he was indicted.

        1. Doug Ross

          It’s all relative, isn’t it? The bar is set lower for a politician than, for example, a doctor or a policeman or a teacher.

        2. Brad Warthen Post author

          You don’t ask a journalist to do that. I learned early on that libel was a BAD thing.

          I’ll only speak of those already found guilty.

          Harrell wasn’t a huge shock. Robert Ford was even less of one. And then there was the big one that got away — Jack Lindsey. NO ONE would have been surprised had he been indicted, but Ron Cobb — if I recall correctly — refused to ensnare Jack.

          But John I. Rogers was a shock, as Courson has been…

          1. Doug Ross

            So you’re going to be like Ben Affleck with Harvey Weinstein and wait until after the indictments come out to address the problem. I’m sure you’ve heard enough rumors in your years in Columbia.

            1. Brad Warthen Post author

              Rumors? You actually want me to publish rumors? You want me to make judgments based on rumors — and PUBLISH those judgments?

              No. That’s not what I do.

              And I’m nothing like Ben Affleck. I, for instance, will freely share with you the fact that some of my ancestors owned slaves. That’s not a rumor; it’s fact…

              1. Brad Warthen Post author

                By the way… about having slaveholding ancestors… I’ve been meaning to write a blog post about that.

                You know how a lot of folks who are so “proud of the Confederacy” excuse themselves by saying their ancestors didn’t own slaves?

                My own genealogical research persuades me that they are quite likely to be wrong about that.

                Each individual alive today had thousands of ancestors back during the centuries when slavery was practiced in this country. Most people haven’t traced ALL of their ancestors who were alive in those times.

                While the ancestors they know about may have been poor whites who never owned a slave, that doesn’t mean all of them were. In fact, that seems pretty unlikely to me…

                1. Brad Warthen Post author

                  Once Ancestry start serving up census records from the early 19th century among the “hints” it offers to members, the person who thinks no ancestors owned slaves is in for some shocks.

                  Back then (1840 and earlier), census takers didn’t name anyone in the household besides the “head” of household. But they did record how many “free whites” and “slaves” were in each household, and further broke them down by age and gender.

                  And that’s where some self-righteous types are likely to encounter surprises…

  1. bud

    This debacle along with the nuclear fiasco have one thing in common: they both are the result of Republican malfeasance in the General Assembly. Voters should consider these 2 incidents when going to the polls that perhaps a bit more party competition might be a good thing. I don’t get the attraction this vile party has over such a large majority of voters in South Carolina. The evidence suggests a bit of concern by Republican incumbents that they could actually lose would go a long way in cleaning this mess up.

    1. Doug Ross

      Just consider how bad most of the Democrats are that they can’t beat these crooks. Put up better candidates with better resumes and better ideas and maybe you can win some seats.

      With all the corruption that exists in the State House, it’s sort of like the Harvey Weinstein situation — everyone knows about it but nobody does anything about it. We’re all supposed to believe that people like Vincent Sheheen and James Smith had NO idea about any of the activities going on around them with their Quinn affiliated colleagues. Never heard any rumors, never saw anything that looked fishy. I’m skeptical.

    2. clark surratt

      If you really already don’t know, I’ll tell you the attraction of that particular party you don’t like: It’s the notion that it can put bibles and prayer back in schools, use taxes for private schooling, outlaw abortion, give more benefits to me instead of the folks they think don’t deserve them it (surely you know that code) — and that’s mostly it. This is pervasive from top down.

      1. Doug Ross

        Except none of the issues you mentioned actually are in effect. Abortion is legal. There are no vouchers. I don’ t recall any prayer in schools for my kids. And I know from my tax bill that I am paying in a WHOLE lot more than I am getting.

        So now tell me what Democrats are for? Aside from higher taxes. What are the core principles a Democrat in South Carolina can offer to 51% of the voters?

        1. clark surratt

          You are certainly right, Mr. Ross. But I’m talking about what gets the typical S.C. state Republican from the suburbs and small towns elected at the outset. They pray and talk about family values and taking America back. Their constituents don’t really hold them accountable for things like the Base Loan Review Act. Democrats, I don’t know.

        1. Mark Stewart

          It must be pins and needles around the Alan Wilson, Henry McMaster, Curtis Loftis Jr., and Glenn McConnell households. Not suggesting they did anything wrong, but (like Courson) they seem to be the ones who far and away did more business with the Quinns than any other politicians. That has to be a very uncomfortable reality.

          The other two guys indicted yesterday seem to have done relatively little business with the Quinns as consultants, so that’s also striking. Is there more to their financials than would casual meet the eye? Or are their transgressions more of a political nature – the lobbying angle?

          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            Yes, no matter how clean I might be, I’d be nervous. Because as awful as it is to be charged with something when you’re guilty, it can be even more painful when you know you’ve done nothing wrong…

    3. Lynn Teague

      Competition is badly needed. Voters need a choice at the polls, no argument there. Those politicians who don’t have reliable moral compasses internally (yes, there are some who do) respond to danger at the polls, and lack of competition means lack of accountability, in both parties. It was a Democratic senator who told me he wouldn’t vote for the ethics bill then before the Senate unless I could convince him that not doing so would lose him his seat. He was smiling when he said it, he knew he was gerrymandered into great safety. We need independent redistricting and criteria that exclude consideration of preserving an incumbent or party.

      And as long as we’re on the subject – the SC Republican chairman’s attempt to bring Harvey Weinstein into the discussion to divert attention is beyond absurdity. The real argument against pinning this entirely on the Republican Party is that the investigation started with two R legislators, one of them associated with the biggest R consulting firm in the state. Of course the investigation led to more Rs, that doesn’t prove that anyone else is pure.

  2. Karen Pearson

    I’ve got a feeling that enough legislators were involved that some of the others, who weren’t aware of the scam will be caught up to. I know that some of you think everyone should have known or at least been suspicious by now, but knowing how rumors are flying about these days, I’m not surprised that some folk trusted someone they shouldn’t have.

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