Indicted Republican lawmaker Rep. Rick Quinn, R-Lexington, vowed Tuesday to fight charges against him, deemed the allegations “very weak” and said special prosecutor David Pascoe, a Democrat, is on “a partisan witch hunt.”
“I’ve done everything I can do to conduct myself in an honorable way,” said Quinn, 51, told The State newspaper, “and I’m very confident that when we go to trial on these issues, the public is going to see that.”
Shortly after noon on Tuesday, Quinn, who has served in the Legislature a total of some 20 years, was indicted by the State Grand Jury on two counts of misconduct in office.
Hours later, S.C. House Speaker Jay Lucas suspended Quinn from his House seat pending resolution of the charges.
Quinn is the fourth lawmaker indicted by Pascoe in an ongoing investigation into alleged public corruption in the S.C. General Assembly. In a press release, Pascoe said he would have no comment other than to say Quinn is innocent until proven guilty and that his investigation is “ongoing.” Pascoe also declined comment on Quinn’s statements.
Tuesday afternoon, in an interview with a State newspaper reporter at his lawyer’s office, Quinn said he looks forward to a thorough airing of the facts before an unbiased jury.
“I am asking for a speedy trial so this can be resolved as quickly as possible,” Quinn said.
Various activities described in the indictments have already been scrutinized and found legal, Quinn said. “There are accusations in this indictment that should be equally applied to the Democratic Caucus if he (Pascoe) really believes they are illegal. ... For some reason, he doesn’t want to ask questions of the Democrats.”
Moreover, Quinn said, he and his lawyers will be at a hearing next Tuesday at the Richland County courthouse where they will present evidence that Pascoe, who asked the State Grand Jury for Quinn’s indictment, has conducted his investigation in an “unconstitutional” manner.
Leaks to the news media about details of Pascoe’s investigation and other actions by the special prosecutor “have violated our constitutional rights,” Quinn said. Pascoe is a “partisan Democrat who wants to be attorney general,” Quinn said.
Quinn said Pascoe no doubt got the indictments issued Tuesday “in an attempt to muddy up” issues in next week’s hearing.
Quinn spoke at the Columbia offices of his lawyer, Greg Harris, a former federal prosecutor. Also present was Quinn’s other attorney, Matthew Richardson, a longtime friend, one-time Democratic candidate for attorney general and brother of assistant U.S. Attorney Jay Richardson, who recently received national attention by winning a death penalty verdict against Charleston church killer Dylann Roof.
Harris elaborated on next week’s hearing, saying, “We are litigating as to whether they have in place the appropriate procedures to protect Rick’s constitutional rights.”
One charge against Quinn, common law misconduct in office, accuses Quinn of taking $4.5 million in money “from lobbyists’ principals,” or professional associations and trade groups. He then failed to report “to the appropriate supervisory office,” the indictment says.
After his businesses received money from various groups, Quinn used his public office “to influence governmental decisions involving” those groups, the indictment says. The groups allegedly paying money to Quinn’s businesses were not identified in the indictment.
That charge, which alleges illegal activity by Quinn from 1999 to April 15 of this year, carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a fine at the judge’s discretion.
The other charge, for statutory misconduct in office, carries a maximum sentence of one year in prison and a $1,000 maximum fine. It alleges that from April 2010 through April 15, 2017, Quinn as a public official committed criminal acts “in order to obtain a personal profit and benefit.”
“Defendant did act as a lobbyist while holding office in the S.C. House of Representatives” and “did attempt to influence the action or vote of members of the S.C. General Assembly by direct communication on behalf of entities which employed, retained or appointed Defendant’s businesses for the purpose of influencing the action or vote of any member of the General Assembly concerning legislation,” the indictment for common law misconduct says.
No bond hearing has been set.
Quinn is a former Republican majority leader in the State House and is the son of Richard Quinn, owner of what is believed to be South Carolina’s most influential political consulting firm, with ties to numerous state and federal officials as well as public institutions. Quinn has represented politicians as prominent as Gov. Henry McMaster, U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C.
Key allegations in the indictments say Quinn:
▪ From 2010 to 2017 violated provisions of the Ethics Government Accountability and Campaign Reform Act as both an elected member of the S.C. House of Representatives and candidate for state office.
▪ While serving as S.C. House Republican Majority Leader, failed to disclose contributions and expenditures made to and from the House Republican Caucus’s operating account, and that lack of disclosure allowed Quinn and his businesses to collect $255,188 from the caucus “without accountability to the public.”
▪ Filed fraudulent campaign disclosure forms pertaining to his 2006 race for state treasurer.
▪ Directed campaign contributions for his House seat to businesses in which he had an economic interest “for unlawful personal profit.”
▪ While a candidate and elected member of the House, Quinn filed campaign disclosure forms that included “improper and/or false claims that money was spent for legitimate campaign or legislative purposes.”
▪ Collected through his private businesses “substantial funds” from “lobbyists’ principals,” a reference to trade groups or professional associations, then used his public office “to influence governmental decisions involving those lobbyists’ principals.”
Quinn’s businesses mentioned in the common law misconduct indictment include Richard Quinn and Associates, owned by his father; Mail Marketing Startegies; and The Copy Shop. Quinn has an economic interest in each of the businesses, the indictment says.
In the Tuesday afternoon interview, Rick Quinn also said he believed his family “is a victim of a feud going on between (Attorney General) Alan Wilson and Mr. Pascoe.”
Pascoe had considered running for attorney general twice in years that Wilson won the post, in 2010, and 2014, but decided not to, Qunn said.
“Now things have escalated between him and Mr. Wilson,” said Quinn, referring to a legal battle last year between Pascoe and Wilson as to whether Pascoe had authority to initiate a State Grand Jury investigation into public corruption in the General Assembly.
“I think my family has suffered from that due to its closeness to the attorney general’s campaign,” Quinn said. Richard Quinn & Associates represented Wilson in his races for attorney general.
Quinn also criticized Pascoe’s investigation for the leaks that have surfaced, such as when The State newspaper recently reported that SLED had raided his father’s offices and seized documents and other data.
“It’s been unprecedented – every single thing that the grand jury has done ... has been leaked to the media, and that is illegal,” Quinn said. “It is like an attempt to politically assassinate his opponents.”
“I’ve tried as hard as I can to conduct myself in an appropriate manner,” said Quinn, who is owner and president of Mail Market Strategies.
Quinn said, “I’m looking forward not only to going to trial and having my good name cleared, because that’s going to happen. But also, I’m going to hold Mr. Pascoe accountable for things he’s been doing.”
For several years, Pascoe has led a team of State Law Enforcement Division agents and three elected solicitors in a quiet but lengthy probe into alleged public corruption in the S.C. General Assembly.
As Pascoe’s probe has continued, Rick Quinn’s name surfaced in news reports as a possible target of the investigation. Quinn has consistently maintained his innocence.
Last year, when The State newspaper reported the contents of eight previously redacted pages of a SLED report that include Rick Quinn’s name as a person of interest in a then-possible public corruption probe, Quinn said in a statement, “Nothing improper was done.”
Other lawmakers indicted so far in the State House probe are:
▪ State Sen. John Courson, R-Richland, indicted in March on three charges including misconduct in office. His case is pending. He says he is innocent and has been suspended from office.
▪ Rep. Jim Merrill, R-Berkeley, indicted in December on more than 30 charges, including misconduct in office. His case is pending. He says he is innocent and has been suspended from office.
▪ In October 2014, former House Speaker Bobby Harrell, who pleaded guilty to ethics violations and resigned his office, months after David Pascoe was made special prosecutor by Attorney General Alan Wilson.