The indictment on ethics charges and suspension of state Sen. John Courson, R-Richland, last week came as a shock to many.
The State Grand Jury last week handed down charges of misconduct in office and a conversion of campaign funds for personal use in its indictment.
John Crangle, the former executive director of the government watchdog group Common Cause South Carolina, told South Carolina Radio Network campaign money gets many elected officials into trouble. “When you have large amounts of (campaign) money, particularly unspent money, a lot of these guys will try to figure out a way to get their hands on it because they think it’s their money. It’s not their money, but they think that,” Crangle said.
Crangle said there is not enough oversight by the state into elected officials’ campaign accounts. As a result, candidates can dominate control over funds intended for the campaign. “The control over it by anybody else is minimal. the Senate Ethics Committee, the House Ethics Committee, the State Ethics Commission they really don’t do much to control political money unless somebody blows the whistle,” said Crangle.
In the indictments, prosecutors said the incidents involving Courson took place between the end of 2006 and the end of 2012. The indictment states that Courson passed $247,000 from his campaign account to Quinn and Associates. That organization then paid approximately $132,800 back to the senator through multiple transactions.
Courson, through an attorney, has strongly denied the accusations and called them “completely false.” “I have done nothing wrong,” he said in a statement. “I value my integrity and have spent all of my years as a public servant embracing the highest standards of ethical conduct. I believe the most important things one leaves behind in this life are one’s children and one’s reputation.”
Lt. Gov. Kevin Bryant sent a letter to Courson on Friday suspending him from office.