October 24, 2014

Harrell makes it official, resigns from House in letter

Harrell served as House Speaker for 9 years (File)

Harrell served as House Speaker for 9 years (File)

Former South Carolina House Speaker Bobby Harrell has now officially resigned from the House of Representatives.

Harrell submitted a brief resignation letter to the House Clerk dated Thursday, saying he would also withdraw from the House election in two weeks.

“Pursuant with the court agreement, I am informing you that am withdrawing from the 2014 election and resigning my office in the South Carolina House of Representatives at 5:00 pm (Thursday),” he wrote.

Harrell had been suspended from the Speaker’s position ever since his indictment on nine counts last month related to misuse of campaign funds and lying about it to state ethics officials. Harrell pleaded guilty to six of the misuse counts on Thursday. As part of the deal, Harrell was required to give up his House seat for at least three years. He had represented House District 114 since 1993 and was elected Speaker in 2005.

Prosecutors said Harrell used campaign money to pay for nonexistent flights on his private plane. The Charleston Republican said he disagreed with the charges but pleaded guilty because he and his family did not want to fight them any longer.

Speaker pro tempore Jay Lucas has served as acting House Speaker since Harrell’s suspension. Most observers believe he will be elected to the position for good once lawmakers return after Election Day.

Is Harrell conviction just the beginning?

Bobby Harrell embraces his wife a few minutes after pleading guilty to six ethics counts on Thursday

Bobby Harrell embraces his wife a few minutes after pleading guilty to six ethics counts on Thursday

After pleading guilty Thursday to six counts of violating the state’s ethics laws, now-former House Speaker Bobby Harrell said he wanted to end a “two-year nightmare.” But those with ties to the investigation say there could still be much more to come.

A plea agreement signed by the Charleston Republican includes language stating that, “The Defendant (Harrell) agrees to be fully truthful and forthright with the attorneys and investigators for the Solicitor and the Government in thorough and complete debriefings of the Defendant’s knowledge concerning unlawful activities should the Solicitor or Government seek his cooperation.” The agreement notes that cooperation includes turning over necessary records and testifying at any future trials or proceedings if called upon to do so.

If Harrell fails to meet the terms of the agreement, prosecutors could return to court with four more indictments they agreed not to prosecute on Thursday.

1st Circuit Solicitor David Pascoe would not say if there are other ongoing investigations, telling reporters after Thursday’s hearing he could not comment if there were.

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Jeb Bush campaigns with Nikki Haley in South Carolina

 

Jeb Bush (File)

Jeb Bush (File)

Governor Nikki Haley campaigned with former Florida Governor Jeb Bush Thursday at stops in Greenville and Lexington.

During an appearance at Hudson’s Smokehouse BBQ in Lexington, Bush sidestepped the question of him running for president in 2016. “My thoughts are, I am hoping and praying and working to elect great conservatives like Nikki Haley to reelection here and hopefully to get a majority in the United States Senate,” he told reporters with Haley at his side. “The rest of that stuff will happen later.”

He added that he would mull over a run after the election and make a decision by the end of the year.

Haley said she was grateful for Bush’s support and appearances with her. “When he offered to come we certainly took him up on it,” she said at the Lexington stop. “He is someone I think everyone can relate to how much his family has given to this country. Everybody knows what a great governor he was of Florida.”

With less than two weeks left before the election, most polls show Haley with a comfortable lead over Democratic State Sen. Vincent Sheheen, independent Tom Ervin, and two other minor candidates.

During a stop earlier in the day at Haley’s campaign office in Greenville, Bush praised the first-term governor’s efforts to recruit new industries. “She has made economic development the number one priority in this state. And jobs are growing. Incomes are growing,” he said. “She outcompetes the whole neighborhood, and all the other governors I see, consistently making the case for South Carolina. And, more often than not, people are saying ‘yes.'”

Haley said she first met Bush during her 2010 run for governor. She said the Florida governor even provided an adviser to help her staff during the transition to governor after that election.

Harrell pleads guilty, resigns House seat

Bobby Harrell embraces his wife a few minutes after pleading guilty to six ethics counts on Thursday

Bobby Harrell embraces his wife a few minutes after pleading guilty to six ethics counts on Thursday

Former Speaker of the South Carolina House Bobby Harrell, R-Charleston, pleaded guilty Thursday to six counts of use of campaign funds for personal expenses and has resigned from his seat in the South Carolina House of Representatives.

In a plea hearing at the Richland County courthouse, Harrell was sentenced to six years in prison, suspended in favor of three years of probation with a $30,000 fine. The 58-year-old Republican agreed to the following conditions in a written plea agreement:

  • Harrell agreed not to seek or hold public office for the three years he is on probation. The Charleston Republican was first elected to the House in 1993 and elected Speaker in 2005.
  • Harrell will pay a $30,000 fine plus an additional $93,958 to the general fund of South Carolina. Harrell will also turn over all of his remaining campaign account to the state’s general fund. That amount was not immediately available.

The 1st Circuit Solicitor’s Office on Thursday also revealed a new, tenth indictment handed down against Harrell (one of the six counts included in the plea). The plea deal does not affect the three previous misconduct and false reporting charges related to the case. Prosecutors agreed not to prosecute these four counts in exchange for Harrell paying the nearly $124,000 required in the plea deal and cooperating in future investigations.

The plea agreement requires Harrell to cooperate with state and federal prosecutors, including to possibility of testifying “fully and truthfully at any trials or other proceeding” in state or federal court. He must also submit to polygraph examinations.

During the Thursday hearing, Harrell repeatedly answered “yes,” to questions by Judge Casey Manning asking if the charges against him were true. But afterwards he released a statement saying he still did not believe he had done anything wrong.

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Rubio talks American Dream at Columbia fundraiser

Florida's Sen. Marco Rubio speaks to an SCGOP fundraiser in Columbia on Wednesday

Florida’s Sen. Marco Rubio speaks to an SCGOP fundraiser in Columbia on Wednesday

Florida’s U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio made another trip to South Carolina Wednesday, speaking at a state Republican Party fundraiser in Columbia.

During his stump appearance with fellow U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, Rubio spoke mostly about the “American Dream” and his fears that current government policies are causing many to give up on it. The son of Cuban immigrants also reiterated calls he’s previously made that he said would help improve opportunities for low-income children, such as private school choice and student loan reforms.

The appearance had the feel of a campaign speech, amidst rumors that Rubio will run for president in two years. The senator said afterwards he is focused on helping the GOP win control of the Senate in 2014, but will discuss his political future with his family after the election.

“The real decision for me will be based on where’s the best place to further the agenda that I believe so strongly in,” he told reporters afterwards. “And what I’ll have to decide is: where’s the best place for me to further that agenda?”

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