State police say they have begun their investigation of an ethics complaint filed against House Speaker Bobby Harrell (R-Charleston). State Law Enforcement Division spokesman Thom Berry confirmed Thursday that SLED agents had now been assigned to the investigation.
The news was first reported by the Charleston Post & Courier.
Attorney General Alan Wilson forwarded the ethics complaint to SLED two weeks ago. The complaint filed by the president of the conservative think-tank South Carolina Policy Council Ashley Landess accuses Harrell of violating state ethics laws. Landess claims Harrell improperly reimbursed himself hundreds of thousands of dollars from his campaign and used his office to exert undue influence on a permit his pharmaceutical business needed.
The Policy Council also took issue with Harrell appointing his brother to a committee that screens judicial candidates and picks the top three finalists for each seat before the Legislature chooses.
Harrell has called the complaint a “baseless” attack and said Landess has a political vendetta against him. He has previously said he did nothing illegal.
Normally, ethics complaints involving members of the South Carolina House are handled by the House Ethics Committee. However, there had been concerns about the committee’s objectivity, since many of its members have received donations from a political action committee with connections to the Speaker.