COLUMBIA — State investigators seized records tied to political groups and some of the state’s largest corporations and state agencies from the office of a powerful political consultant in the ongoing Statehouse corruption probe, according to documents released late Friday.
State Law Enforcement Division agents took: financial, bank, tax and payroll records for political consulting firm Richard Quinn & Associates; tax returns for Richard Quinn and his wife; and financial records for property and publishing firms incorporated by Richard Quinn.
Agents also took from the building on Gervais Street just blocks from the Statehouse financial and tax records for a political direct-mail company run by Quinn’s son, Lexington Rep. Rick Quinn, who was indicted last month on two charges of misconduct in office.
The raid on March 2 netted records from several of Richard Quinn clients — energy giant SCANA, insurer BlueCross Blue Shield of South Carolina, State Ports Authority and University of South Carolina. Agents seized 24 computers, hard drives and thumb drives, including one labeled “Rick Quinn.”
They also took tax and bank documents for the Conservative Leadership Project, a political group that sponsored a series of 2016 presidential candidate forums hosted by state Attorney General Alan Wilson, a client of Richard Quinn’s firm.
In addition to a trove of financial records listed among the 54 items seized in the raid, SLED agents took some more mundane items, including a bounced check notice from a bank, a news article on the probe, a lease and a notebook.
Richard Quinn, long considered a S.C. Republican political kingmaker whose clients have included Gov. Henry McMaster and Senate President Hugh Leatherman, has not been charged in the probe.
Prosecutors say they have not reviewed the the information taken from Richard Quinn & Associates three months ago while attorneys for the Quinns argue with the court over concerns that some of documents seized could include information covered under attorney-client privilege. The defense attorneys want special prosecutor David Pascoe removed from the case because they think he might he seen the forbidden records. A ruling is expected soon.
Pascoe argued in court that Rick Quinn had ties to his father’s consulting business, meaning he should have declared more than $4.5 million in fees the firm received from companies and agencies that hired Richard Quinn & Associates. Rick Quinn is accused of using his elected office to lobby on behalf of those clients and using his position as a state House Republican leader to steer business to his family’s firms. Some of Quinn’s colleagues said they even found it it tough, at times, to separate the legislator from the key member of South Carolina’s first family of political consultants.
Rick Quinn has denied any wrong-doing, arguing that he and his father are victims of a feud between Wilson and Pascoe. The Republican Attorney General recused himself from the the corruption probe in 2014 citing unspecified conflicts and appointed Pascoe, a Democratic solicitor who once considered running against Wilson. Then Wilson tried to wrestle back control of the investigation last year but lost a decision in S.C. Supreme Court.
The records were released Friday by the State Grand Jury at the request of press attorney Jay Bender, who argued on behalf new organizations to open files related to the efforts to remove Pascoe from the Quinn case.
Quinn is the fourth state lawmaker charged in the Statehouse probe.
Former House Speaker Bobby Harrell, R-Charleston, resigned after pleading guilty to misusing campaign cash. State Rep. Jim Merrill, R-Daniel Island, is facing 30 ethics charges, while Sen. John Courson, R-Columbia, is accused of laundering campaign cash for personal use through Richard Quinn & Associates.
Quinn, Merrill and Courson have been suspended from office.