A powerful Lexington County legislator has been indicted by the State Grand Jury on two misconduct charges, the third lawmaker caught up in an ongoing investigation of corruption at the Statehouse.
State Rep. Richard Quinn, Jr., R-Lexington, was indicted Tuesday, according to First Circuit Solicitor David Pascoe. State Attorney General Alan Wilson’s office has turned over the investigation to Pascoe and the State Law Enforcement Division because Quinn’s political consulting firm previously helped Wilson’s 2010 campaign.
House Speaker Jay Lucas suspended Quinn from the chamber shortly after learning about the indictments, citing state law.
The indictments deal with payments Quinn made to the Richard Quinn & Associates (RQA) firm, which was founded by his father, as well as a direct mail business and copying shop where he is also connected financially. The indictment accuses Quinn of ensuring his election campaigns and the House GOP Caucus used those businesses during his time as House Majority Leader from 1999-2004 without disclosing his own financial benefit.
State Grand Jury documents show the panel indicted Quinn for Common Law Misconduct in Office and Statutory Misconduct in Office. No bond hearing has yet been scheduled. The indictments deal with Quinn’s spending during various campaigns for the SC House, his time as House majority leader and an unsuccessful campaign for state Treasurer in 2006.
Quinn angrily defended himself in a statement Tuesday evening, claiming “supervisory authorities” previously told him the payments were “legal and proper.” He accused Pascoe, an elected Democrat, of trying to score political points with the indictments.
“My family and I have been targeted by Mr. Pascoe because of a political feud between the Republican Attorney General and a partisan Democrat who wants to be the attorney general,” the statement said. “It is my belief that this public fight between them is the real motivation since I have worked for the Attorney General’s past political campaigns. I have done nothing wrong and I am asking for a speedy trial so this can be resolved as quickly as possible.”
Pascoe noted the indictments are “mere accusations” at this point and his office is still investigating. He had no further comment.
Quinn has spoken openly about the payments to his firm in the past, even telling The State newspaper last year “I’m actually glad that the public can see I did nothing improper. Everybody knows that I have operated a direct mail business for over 20 years. I was majority leader 14 years ago, and I did mailings for the Republican Caucus before, during and after I was majority leader.”
The indictment is unusually extensive — covering 18 years between the start of Quinn’s term as majority leader in 1999 until April 15 of this year. In addition to RQA, the indictment claims Quinn also directed campaign and House GOP money to pay for services at Mail Marketing Strategies and The Copy Shop — two other businesses in which he has a financial stake. The indictment states Quinn oversaw nearly $272,000 in payments to the businesses during his time as majority leader. The indictments claim neither Quinn nor the House ever disclosed more than $255,000 he and his businesses received from the House GOP’s operating account during his five years in the job.
He also never disclosed more than $4.5 million his businesses received from lobbyist’s principals (businesses which have hired lobbyists). The indictment claims many of those businesses then used mailings from Quinn’s firms to actively lobby members of the House, a potential violation of state ban on legislators acting as lobbyists.
Former government watchdog Common Cause state director John Crangle said state law is vague on whether a legislator can redirect party caucus resources to businesses he owns, but said the dollar figures involved are troubling. “When you have large amounts of political money being paid to the candidate or the officeholder and the amount of money is grossly in excess of the value of the services, that’s where you have the fraudulent nature of the transaction,” he told South Carolina Radio Network.
Quinn is the third legislator to be indicted from either his connections to Richard Quinn & Associates or the House GOP Caucus. State Rep. Jim Merrill, R-Charleston, was suspended in December after investigators accused him of charging the caucus for candidate mailings and advertisements at a communications firm he owned without disclosing his financial gains. Merrill has argued doing so did not violate state law. In March, State Sen. John Courson, R-Richland, was also indicted after Pascoe’s office accused him of improperly funneling roughly $133,000 from his campaign to himself through Quinn & Associates.