Rick Quinn, son of Quinn firm owner is indicted
A high-profile statewide group of trial lawyers, called the S.C. Association for Justice, has for the past 10 years used the Columbia powerhouse political consulting firm Richard Quinn & Associates, now a potential subject of a State Grand Jury investigation.
“We engaged the full service public relations agency to help our association with the range of services provided by RQ&A,” said the group’s president, Alex Cash, a Charleston lawyer, in a statement emailed Friday in response to a reporter’s query.
“During this time, they have produced for us over 40 full-length magazines, helped with membership messaging, public education messaging, prepared promotional and registration materials for our annual, midyear and spring conventions,” Cash said.
Although the trial lawyers’ group released a statement about its long association with RQ&A, Cash did not respond to The State newspaper’s specific queries about how much it paid the Quinn firm and whether it plans to use the firm in the future.
“We have been very satisfied with the professional services and work of their firm for our association,” Cash said. The Quinn firm also helped with “rebranding” the group, which was once named the S.C. Trial Lawyers Association, he said.
The Quinn firm did not lobby for the trial lawyers, Cash said.
In recent weeks, as news coverage of the grand jury’s investigation has increased, it has become more clear that numerous politicians, state agencies, businesses and organizations have done business with the Quinn firm.
The trial lawyer group’s 1,300 members – more than 10 percent of South Carolina’s lawyers – are civil attorneys who file lawsuits on behalf of individuals, corporations or the public against other people or groups whose alleged negligence caused injuries. Trial lawyers generally favor jury trials instead of mandatory arbitration, as well as less government regulation of limitations on jury awards.
Richard Quinn & Associates, which has ties to many of the state’s most prominent politicians, organizations and agencies, since last year is believed to have been among the subjects of a secret State Grand Jury investigation into public corruption in the General Assembly. That’s when The State newspaper reported that RQ&A and its founder, Richard Quinn, had been named in a confidential portion of a State Law Enforcement Division investigative report being scrutinized by the State Grand Jury.
Also named in the confidential SLED report were Quinn’s son, Rep. Rick Quinn, R-Lexington, and Rep. Jim Merrill, R-Berkeley.
As a result of the SLED investigation, Merrill was indicted in December on misconduct and ethics violations. (Those allegations did not involve RQ&A.)
Earlier this year, SLED exercised a search warrant and raided Quinn’s Columbia-area offices, seizing boxes of documents and other data. In March, Sen. John Courson, R-Richland, one of Quinn’s longtime clients, was indicted on allegations of misconduct in office and using campaign money for personal expenses. One of the three indictments charges Courson with “unlawfully converting” money from his campaign account to his personal use by means of transactions involving RQ&A.
No charges have been brought against either Quinn. Both say they are innocent of any wrongdoing.
Since Courson’s indictment, some of the numerous groups and people who do business with RQ&A have said they will maintain their business relationships with the Quinns.
That includes Gov. Henry McMaster, who has used RQ&A as a consultant for many years. Other successful politicians who have had long-standing relations with the firm include U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.; state Attorney General Alan Wilson; and his father, U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C. None of them have said they are giving up Quinn. The Cayce-based electric utility giant, SCANA, as well as the University of South Carolina, also have retained the Quinns in the past.
Another group, the nonprofit Friends of the Hunley, which oversees the preservation of the Hunley submarine in North Charleston, along with Clemson University and other groups, has used RQ&A since about 2002, paying it about $200,000 a year for publications, exhibit support, digital media, membership management, large donor fundraising and public relations, according to Friends and the group’s IRS reports.
“Friends of the Hunley Inc. has been happy with RQA’s work product over the years and plans to continue in the foreseeable future,” said Kellen Correia, Friends president and executive director, in an email.
At least one other group, the S.C. Ports Authority, has suspended its relationship this spring, citing the State Grand Jury matter. It was paying RQ&A an $8,100 per month retainer.
The trial lawyers’ ties to the Quinn firm, whose networks of clients have been dubbed “the Quinndom,” further illustrate how it was wired into the state’s power centers.
“The tentacles of the Quinns extend to everyone – the politicians, state agencies, corporations and trade groups and professional associations,” said government watchdog John Crangle, of the S.C. Progressive Network. “No other organization has such extensive contacts as the Quinns have.”