Fifth Circuit Solicitor Dan Johnson, the subject of a State Law Enforcement Division "inquiry" into his use of public money, is scheduled to have a campaign fund raiser Wednesday for his re-election bid.
The fund raiser will be held at The Tin Roof, a nightclub at 1022 Senate St. in downtown Columbia's Vista section.
Johnson only has $4,301 in cash on hand for his re-election bid, according to his latest campaign finance statement, filed Jan. 10 with the S.C. Ethics Commission.
Johnson, who is solicitor — or chief prosecutor — in Richland and Kershaw counties, supervises a staff of more than 50 lawyers and other professionals who try cases, accept guilty pleas and work with victims and law officers in criminal cases.
Never miss a local story.
Filing to run for solicitor opens Friday at noon at the Richland County Election Commission and continues until March 30. Thus far, Johnson has no announced opposition.
Johnson sent out a flier announcing the Tin Roof event. The announcement included the names of more than a dozen prominent lawyers and public officials who, Johnson said, are endorsing his campaign, including Richland County Councilman Seth Rose, former Fifth Circuit Solicitor Barney Giese, S.C. House Minority Leader Todd Rutherford, D-Richland, and local attorneys Johnny Gasser, Greg Harris, Jack Swerling, Neal Lourie, Pat McWhirter and Leigh Leventis, among others.
Swerling said Tuesday he has known Johnson for years and saw no reason to withdraw from the fund raiser. "Until I know more, I have no problem supporting him."
S. C. Chief Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Young wrote SLED chief Mark Keel last Thursday saying public reports had raised questions about the legitimacy of spending by the Fifth Circuit Solicitor's Office. Young asked Keel to have "an agent or agents" look into Johnson's spending.
"While these are allegations at this point and the expenditures may have valid explanations, it seems prudent to have a preliminary inquiry into whether the expenditures were legally appropriate," Young's letter said.
Keel said Tuesday he has assigned agents to look into Johnson's spending.
"It is a preliminary inquiry," Keel said. "We are trying to determine whether there's a violation. If there is a violation, we will go from a preliminary inquiry stage to investigation stage."
The material the agents will be looking at comes from more than 10,000 pages of Johnson's office documents recently made public by a Columbia-based activist group, Public Access to Public Records, or PAPR. Those records — some 30,000, in total — were released to PAPR after it submitted Freedom of Information requests to Johnson's office. PAPR still has thousands more pages about Johnson's spending to make public.
That spending, as reported by the Post and Courier of Charleston, included:
▪ Paying $3,000 to Johnson's brother to perform as a disc jockey at parties between 2014 and 2017. Also, Johnson's office spent $3,600 to fly Johnson's brother from Phoenix to Columbia and back each year.
▪ Paying $4,562 to the Golden Bay Hotel & Spa in the Galapagos Islands in the Pacific Ocean, hundreds of miles off the coast of Ecuador.
Johnson did not respond to an email Tuesday asking if he will seek a third term as solicitor. However, friends said his fund raiser is still on.
In a statement issued last week, Johnson said, that "no federal, State, Richland or Kershaw County appropriate tax dollars have been used inappropriately" by his office.
"If a mistake was made, then I will certainly remedy it," Johnson told The State in an email last week.