S.C. politics: Ethics Commission says Wilson must return $200 in donations

March 7, 2014 

Ethics Commission says Wilson must return $200 in donations

The State Ethics Commission says South Carolina’s attorney general needs to refund $200 to a lobbyist for donations to his 2010 campaign.

Commission attorney Cathy Hazelwood said she sent letters Thursday to Attorney General Alan Wilson and former state Rep. Joyce Hearn, who gave $150 to Wilson’s campaign in November 2009 and $50 in March 2010. State law bars statewide officers from taking money from lobbyists, and Hearn was a registered lobbyist for the S.C. Credit Union League.

Wilson’s campaign has 10 days to fix the problem. His consultant, Richard Quinn, said Friday the campaign was unaware Hearn was a lobbyist then.

Last March, Wilson’s campaign corrected his filings after its review found $134,000 in previously unreported donations and expenses. His campaign chairman attributed them to human error.

As attorney general, Wilson’s job includes prosecuting criminal violations of ethics law.

Asked whether errors in Wilson’s own campaign filings affect his ability to do that, John Crangle of Common Cause said it points to a needed change in the system. Crangle long has argued the attorney general’s race should be publicly funded. Any attorney general taking private money from special interest groups is “fundamentally an invitation to corruption,” Crangle said.

“It shows at a minimum that some campaign staffer fumbled the ball,” he said. “It does cast a cloud.”

Wilson’s investigation into former GOP Lt. Gov. Ken Ard resulted in Ard resigning and pleading guilty in 2012 to misdemeanor ethics violations.

In January, Wilson announced he’d sent ethics allegations against House Speaker Bobby Harrell to the grand jury, a month after receiving a report from the State Law Enforcement Division. Harrell, R-Charleston, maintains he’s done nothing wrong and said the announcement’s timing, a day before the legislative session started, appeared to be aimed at hurting him politically.

Wilson, also a Republican, is seeking a second term this year. As of his January ethics filing, he had nearly $635,000 cash available. Democrat Parnell Diggs opened his campaign in January with $500, according to his initial filing with the Ethics Commission.

The Associated Press

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