Thought for the day

Posted by Cindi Ross Scoppe on March 25, 2014 

Bart Daniel speaks for his client, House Speaker Bobby Harrell, left, after Friday's hearing before Judge Casey Manning.

TIM DOMINICK — tdominick@thestate.com Buy Photo

So I’m just wondering …

House Speaker Bobby Harrell’s chief of staff, Brad Wright, suggested but didn’t directly allege at Friday’s court hearing that Attorney General Alan Wilson threatened to launch a Grand Jury investigation into ethics charges against Mr. Harrell if the speaker didn’t support his proposal to codify his Public Integrity Unit.

And if Mr. Wilson did that, then clearly he should be dismissed from the investigation that he and SLED Chief Mark Keel subsequently launched.

But if Mr. Wilson did that, shouldn’t he also be charged with a crime?

And for that matter, shouldn’t Mr. Harrell?

Because Mr. Harrell did precisely what Mr. Wilson wanted.

Mr. Wright would have to answer “no” to both of those questions, because he said “No, sir,” when asked directly by Circuit Judge Casey Manning whether there had been a quid pro quo — the promise of a reward for an action. But of course that sort of makes you wonder what the conflict of interest was that was so humongous as to merit a request for a judge to cross the separation-of-powers boundary and tell the executive branch who will act as a prosecutor.

Anyway, after the meeting that Mr. Wilson had requested to get Mr. Harrell’s support of his proposal, Mr. Harrell … supported his proposal. The Public Integrity Unit was included in the omnibus ethics reform bill that the House Judiciary Committee sent to the floor two days after that meeting. No one proposed removing it, and it was still in the bill that Mr. Harrell and 112 other House members passed on April 30.

Alas that bill remains stuck in legislative limbo, with the House still having not yet taken up the Senate’s amended version. Among many, many other changes, the Senate version leaves out the Public Integrity Unit.

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