July 23, 2024

The Nerve Archive

Where Government Gets Exposed

Landess: What I Know about the Harrell Investigation


In the weeks since Speaker Bobby Harrell pronounced that he was no longer being investigated over corruption allegations brought by SCPC, I’ve been asked by everyone from reporters to my mother to confirm the claim, deny it, or throw a fit because we haven’t been told either way.

I’ve done none of these things because I don’t know what’s going on with the investigation. But I do not believe it is over. The only one who’s made the claim is Harrell himself, and frankly he’s been about the least reliable source in all this.

Harrell clearly thought he had the system wired in his favor from the beginning. So far, he’s been wrong. After Attorney General Alan Wilson sent out a brief statement saying the matter had been turned over to a grand jury, it was obvious that Harrell was stunned and furious.

Let me be clear: I do not know what’s happening with the investigation, but the only person who has declared it “over and done” is Harrell. As I’ve said before, take that with a mountain of salt. The Attorney General said after the case was referred to the grand jury that his office wouldn’t comment further. He hasn’t. The Court is as tight-lipped today as it was in the beginning, and so is SLED. David Pascoe, the Orangeburg solicitor Harrell said Wilson chose to handle any further inquiry won’t confirm anything. Even Harrell attorney Bart Daniel, when asked by The Nerve’s Rick Brundrett to comment, would confirm only that the Speaker had made a statement. Which wasn’t news at that point.

Almost everything about this case has been unprecedented, but one thing that’s been pretty routine is the silence on the part of law enforcement and prosecutors in the middle of a criminal investigation. It makes no sense that the matter would be closed, and no one would confirm that. In fact, if it truly were over we could expect Harrell to demand that the Attorney General publicly say so. He’s been clamoring for the SLED report to be made public when he knew it was part of a grand jury investigation and couldn’t be released.

Whatever the outcome, I’m confident we’ll get the real story when it’s time, and from someone other than Bobby Harrell. And whatever happens with this Speaker, we have a lot of work to do to make sure no South Carolina Speaker of the House ever again has the kind of unchecked power Speaker Harrell has arrogated over the past several years.

In the meantime, citizens can demand answers from someone right now: their duly elected House members. That’s who put this Speaker in power, and this seems like a good time to find out why not one of them has publicly stepped up to challenge his version of events.

Ashley Landess is President of the S.C. Policy Council, The Nerve‘s parent organization

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