The South Carolina Democratic Party is calling on state Attorney General Alan Wilson to resign following a report that he communicated with a political consultant under investigation while trying to have a special prosecutor removed from that same investigation.
In a Monday statement, the party’s Second Vice Chairman Anthony Thompson cited a Charleston Post and Courier report. The report noted Wilson sent emails in 2014 asking political consultant Richard Quinn’s feedback on a letter Wilson was writing to have First Circuit Solicitor David Pascoe removed from the case. Pascoe had begun digging into a State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) report into reported corruption at the Statehouse. The paper obtained the emails through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request.
Quinn’s son State Rep. Rick Quinn, R-Lexington, was indicted earlier this year as a result of the investigation. Wilson insists he only asked his old adviser to proofread and recommend better language. However, Wilson had earlier recused himself from the corruption investigation and turned the case over to Pascoe, citing his prior connections with the elder Quinn.
“The appearance of collusion exposed in yesterday’s Post and Courier makes it clear that the time has come for the Attorney General to resign,” Thompson wrote. “At best, he has used poor judgment that compromises public faith in both the ongoing corruption probe and his office. At worst, he has participated in obstruction of justice.”
Wilson called the email exchange an “innocent exchange” with his trusted advisor. “The Democratic Party’s statement is laughable and ridiculous,” he told the Post & Courier. “If they bothered to look at the facts they would be embarrassed to have even suggested it.”
The letter came not long after then-House Speaker Bobby Harrell’s indictment for campaign financing charges. Wilson had previously turned over the investigation of that case to Pascoe to avoid Harrell’s accusations the Attorney General had a conflict of interest in the case. However, Harrell’s guilty plea required the once-powerful Harrell to cooperate with Pascoe and investigators on other potential corruption targets.
Wilson had sought to reestablish control of the investigation from Pascoe in late 2014, which led to the letter and correspondence with Quinn. The back-and-forth stalled the process until March 2016, when Wilson removed Pascoe from the case. At the time, Wilson said the prosecutor did not have the power to impanel the State Grand Jury without his approval. The state Supreme Court overruled Wilson two months later, restoring Pascoe to the investigation.
Roughly a year later, in March 2017, SLED agents raided the Quinns’ offices. Rep. Quinn was indicted in May on misconduct charges after prosecutors said he did not report $4.5 million in payments made to firms he owned by lobbyists or businesses with interests in Statehouse legislation. The younger Quinn has repeatedly insisted he did nothing illegal and that House Ethics Committee staffers cleared the payments at the time.