The Republican Caucus that controls the S.C. House has allowed investigators to review its financial records dating back to 1995, according to caucus leaders.
In a letter to Republican state representatives, the executive committee of the caucus confirmed there is an ongoing investigation by a State Grand Jury into the activities of House members, including caucus members.
“The scope and the subject of this investigation are unknown to us at this point,” said the letter.
The letter was signed by nine of 10 members of the Republican Caucus’ executive committee. House Majority Leader Bruce Bannister, R-Greenville, did not sign the letter. Bannister did not return calls Thursday to The State.
The executive committee also denied it had hired former U.S. Attorney Bill Nettles to represent the caucus. Nettles, a Democrat, had said earlier Thursday that he was representing the caucus.
“An individual was hired when it became clear that the caucus would need to make those records available as part of this investigation. Mr. Bill Nettles IS NOT that counsel,” according to the caucus letter.
Asked about the letter, released about 6 p.m. Thursday, Nettles said, “All I know is that I have a letter that I have been retained by the House Republican Caucus.”
Nettles declined to say who had signed the letter.
The executive committee said the GOP caucus will comply with requests for copies and give access to its financial records to investigators.
That investigation is being led by Solicitor David Pascoe, a Democrat who survived an effort to fire him by Republican S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson.
Pascoe originally was named special prosecutor to investigate allegations that then-House Speaker Bobby Harrell, R-Charleston, had used campaign money for personal expenses. However, after Harrell resigned and entered a guilt plea, the relationship between Wilson and Pascoe ruptured with Wilson trying to fire the Democrat.
In July, the S.C. Supreme Court said Wilson could not fire Pascoe, leaving the special prosecutor free to continue his investigation into allegations of State House corruption.
At least two GOP state representatives — Jim Merrill of Berkeley and Rick Quinn of Lexington, both former House majority leaders — were named in a once-secret SLED report as possible targets of that investigation.
“We have no reason to believe that the caucus has acted in violation of any portion of the Ethics Act, nor that these records will indicate that any member of the caucus is in violation of the Ethics Act,” the letter from the executive committee to GOP representatives said. “In short, the caucus has nothing to hide from law enforcement.”
Nettles had earlier told The State that he had been “been brought in as part of a team to assist the House Republicans in legal matters relating to a possible State Grand Jury investigation.”
In Nettles’ six years as U.S. attorney, he gave that office new focus on white-collar criminals.
Nettles, who had a reputation as an aggressive defensive attorney before becoming U.S. attorney, also said the GOP Caucus had hired Mark Moore, an attorney with the Columbia-based Nexsen Pruet law firm who specializes in white-collar defense issues.
Moore, who spent 24 years in the U.S. Attorney’s office, had a reputation for being so aggressive that his colleagues gave him a plaque that read in part, “Takes no prisoners,” when he left the prosecutor’s office.
While with the U.S. attorney’s office, Moore was one of a group of prosecutors who worked with federal and state agents, including the FBI, Secret Service, DEA, SLED and IRS, in many of the state’s highest-profile criminal cases.
Contacted late Thursday, Moore said, “I decline to comment.”