The SOUTH CAROLINA state House, that is:
Today Rep Jim Merrill (R-Berkley), who is the Majority Whip in the South Carolina State Legislature was indicted on 30 counts of Ethics Violations with two of those counts being Misconduct in Office. The heart of the indictment is Merrill’s accepting close to $600,000 from various groups in exchange for influence on Committees that Merrill was a member of, or Chaired. The investigation is ongoing as SLED has confirmed 40 former or current House Members are under investigation for corruption. This may be the only indictment from the 24 month investigation, or it could be the first in a long line of indictments. Only time will tell.
This has been a long and all ensnaring investigation that lead the SC Attorney General Alan Wilson, the son of Congressman Joe Wilson recused himself and appointed 1st District Solicitor David Pascoe to pursue the case, only to try and take the investigation over once again. The SC Supreme Court ruled that David Pascoe has sole prosecutorial discretion in the investigation and subsequent charges. The SC House is dominated by Republicans holding 78 seats, and Democrats holding 46. However should most of the 40 under investigation turn out to be Republican, this could reshape the State House for generations.[…]
*Hmmm. That is ABOUT the same partisan split we have up here in OUR House. Could WE have 40 crooks with House floor privileges up here?*
Granted, this is about Columbia. But, from what we’ve learned over the last few years on our site, it’s hitting awful close to home on Raleigh’s Jones Street. Here’s MORE from our amigos south of the border:
After more than two years of speculation, there was finally another indictment this week in the ongoing investigation into alleged public corruption at the S.C. State House.
S.C. Rep. Jimmy Merrill – whose name has been bandied about for over a year in connection with this probe – was indicted on twenty-eight counts of violating the state’s ethics laws and two counts of misconduct in office.
If convicted on all charges, he could potentially face decades behind bars (not to mention tens of thousands of dollars in fines).
To view our story on Merrill’s indictment, click here. To view the indictments themselves, click here (.pdf).
Given that Merrill’s indictment is the first in this investigation in more than two years (former S.C. Speaker of the House Bobby Harrell stepped down in October 2014 after pleading guilty to six ethics violations), it is highly instructive for those of us covering the probe.
What did we learn from it?
Several things …
1. THIS IS JUST THE BEGINNING
First, S.C. first circuit solicitor David Pascoe – who successfully prosecuted the Harrell case in 2014 – made no bones of the fact that this investigation is ongoing.
Everybody knew that, obviously, but Pascoe’s on-the-record confirmation that his work is not done is significant. In fact according to our sources additional indictments are likely … perhaps within the month.
2. THESE ARE NOT “MICKEY MOUSE” ALLEGATIONS
Back in April of this year, we ran a report detailing several “Mickey Mouse” campaign finance violations that were reportedly being probed by Pascoe. We can’t say whether he is or isn’t focused on those alleged violations, but the indictments of Merrill are far from “Mickey Mouse.”
Merrill has been accused of illegally lobbying on behalf of multiple clients, using his public office for personal gain and failing to report huge sums of cash received from clients on his income disclosure statements with the S.C. State Ethics Commission (SCSEC).
“Damning” one ranking Republican leader told us of the charges filed against him.
3. THE INVESTIGATION IS FOCUSED ON SELF-SERVING LAWMAKERS …
As noted above, most of the charges against Merrill center on allegations that he used his official position for personal gain – collecting large amounts of money from special interests (including the S.C. Association of Realtors and the S.C. Manufacturers Alliance, among others) and then failing to report his paymasters.
This website knows of several other lawmakers in very similar situations – all of whom have relied for years on the “self-policing” S.C. House Ethics Committee to turn a blind eye to such arrangements.
If Pascoe is going after all of them, we could be on the verge of a major housecleaning in both chambers of the S.C. General Assembly.
Also, it seems as though the scope of this investigation could conceivably touch on some of the special interests paying off these lawmakers.
Self-serving lawmakers? (We got any of those around these parts?)
(Condo payments from campaign funds, $19,000 in clothes you NEVER actually wear, plane tickets, dinners, iPads, “salaries” for campaigning for YOURSELF, “campaign offices” on golf courses 80 miles outside your district in a cycle when you had NO opposition, paying “campaign aides” and renting “campaign offices” when you have no primary or general election opposition.)
Wait, there’s more. I especially like this part of the coverage of the drama down south:
[…] The Post and Courier first raised questions about Merrill’s dealings in a 2012 article that touched on some of the very issues outlined in the indictments. Merrill also figured prominently in “Capitol Gains,” a series the newspaper produced last year with the Center for Public Integrity exploring South Carolina’s loophole-ridden campaign finance system allows state lawmakers to use their campaign war chests like personal ATM machines.[…]
Using your campaign account like a personal ATM machine? *Now where have we heard about THAT before?*
Buckle up, folks. (Methinks we might be seeing the future …. )