SC Legislators Were In Court Tuesday: Why You Should Care
Columbia, SC (WLTX) - Indictments were read in court Tuesday for a group of former and current lawmakers, along with a top lobbyist , accused of being involved in possible corruption scheme at the State House.
The whole case is very complicated, so we're going to break it down to show how we got to this point.
Related Coverage: Bond Set for Suspects in State House Corruption Probe
So who are the players and what are they accused of?
The prosecution began back in 2015, when former House Speaker Bobby Harrell pleaded guilty to campaign spending violations.
What does that mean?
Investigators say Harrell was using the money voters like you gave his campaign for things like flying his family to Florida for a baseball game. He later claimed it was for legislative purposes.
Harrell was ordered to pay $94,000 back to the state's general fund and got no jail time.
The second was former State Representative Jim Merrill. He was accused of accepting $1 million from different groups to influence legislation---legislation that could impact your life and pocketbook.
This year, Merrill pleaded guilty to one charge of misconduct in office and had to serve one year of probation in exchange of helping federal investigators. There was no jail time for him either.
The following legislators were all in court on Tuesday.
John Courson, the senator from Richland County, was indicted on a charge of misconduct in office. He also accused of using campaign donations for personal use back in March. Courson is the former Senate Pro Tempore, one of the most powerful and influential positions in South Carolina.
He faces a criminal conspiracy charge and is suspended from the seat he's held for 33 years.
Next is Representative Rick Quinn, He was once House Majority Leader, making him one of the most influential voices for the Republicans in the House.
The 51-year-old from Lexington is accused of using money from the House GOP pot for his personal use.
He's also accused of accepting nearly $4.6 million from lobbyists and acting as a lobbyist himself, while in office. Prosecutors also say he used his influence on votes that involved his businesses, all of which is a big no-no.
The State Grand Jury also indicted his father, Richard Quinn Sr., last week.
Quinn Sr. is a political strategist. Both men own a marketing and consulting firm, Richard Quinn & Associates, the chief company that's under investigation.
They have a long list of clients that includes some of the most powerful people in South Carolina politics.
Quinn Sr. is charged with using this company to influence legislation, which is the job of a lobbyist, but he's not registered as one.
The new indictments now include two more former house members: James Harrison from Richland County and Tracy Edge from Horry County. Both are charged with misconduct in office and criminal conspiracy.
Now, why does this all matter to you? Because you vote, you donate to these campaigns and you deserve to know what they're doing with your money.
We'll continue to follow the story in the coming weeks and months.