Crime & Courts

Prosecutor reveals clients, says politics was way for Rick Quinn ‘to make money’

New details of charges against Lexington Republican Rep. Rick Quinn were revealed Tuesday when he went before a judge for a bond hearing.

In a generally worded indictment filed on May 16, Quinn was accused of taking $4.5 million in money from “lobbyists’ principals” or professional associations and trade groups from 2010 to this year and failing to report the income.

But on Tuesday, special prosecutor of the ongoing State House corruption probe David Pascoe added details to the indictment, arguing that after Quinn benefited from multiple organizations that contracted with his businesses, he voted on legislation and lobbied other legislators on their behalf.

Those organizations, Pascoe said Tuesday, were SCANA, the S.C. Ports Authority, Blue Cross/Blue Shield, Palmetto Health, the S.C. Trial Lawyers Association, the University of South Carolina, ATT, the payday lending industry “and many, many more.”

Over the years, Quinn has asserted he is not part of the business Richard Quinn & Associates, Pascoe said. Richard Quinn & Associates is run by Quinn’s father, Richard Quinn Sr., and is the state’s most prominent political consulting firm.

“But your honor,” Pascoe told Judge Knox McMahon, “the SLED investigation reveals the exact opposite – Richard Quinn & Associations is both Rick Quinn Jr. and his father, Richard Quinn Sr.”

SLED found bank loan records on which Rick Quinn listed himself as vice president and also president of Richard Quinn & Associates, Pascoe said.

Although Rick Quinn acknowledges he owns a business called Mail Marketing Strategies, that business “only exists” to pay him his salary from money funneled to Mail Marketing Strategies by Richard Quinn & Associates, Pascoe told the judge.

When Mail Marketing Strategies didn’t have enough money to pay Rick Quinn his salary, Richard Quinn & Associates would wire Quinn’s pay to Mail Marketing Strategies, Pascoe said.

Pascoe also alleged the investigation has revealed an “18-year pattern” of running for or holding office “to make money, to benefit from it economically.” He argued Quinn’s companies made $272,000 from the GOP caucus while he was majority leader. Quinn was the majority leader from 1999 to 2004.

“Prior to that time … his companies made almost no money from the GOP caucus,” Pascoe said. “Almost none. Certainly under $1,000.”

Quinn is facing two counts of misconduct in office. He has maintained his innocence and accused Pascoe of conducting a “partisan witch hunt.” Quinn dismissed the behaviors cited in the indictment as having been previously approved “by regulatory authorities at the time” – or “just absolutely false.”

On Tuesday, outside the courtroom and against his lawyers’ advice, Quinn again accused Pascoe of not targeting Democrats who have done “the very same things” Quinn is accused to have done.

Quinn also said Pascoe is taking out his frustration with Attorney General Alan Wilson by investigating Quinn and his father. Wilson is a client of Richard Quinn and Associates; Richard Quinn has not been charged with any crime but he is widely believed to be a target in Pascoe’s investigation.

“I believe my family are victims of really a feud between the two of them,” the younger Quinn said, speaking of Pascoe and Wilson. “And I think what we have here is a Democrat prosecutor who wants to beat the Republican attorney general.”

Quinn is the third sitting Republican lawmaker indicted since last December by Pascoe, who is working the corruption probe in the S.C. General Assembly with a team of SLED agents and three other elected solicitors. Pascoe, a Democrat based in Orangeburg, is the elected solicitor of the 1st Judicial Circuit and was appointed special prosector by Wilson.

Because of Quinn’s deep political and community ties, McMahon set a personal recognizance of $50,000 for Quinn on Tuesday. The lawmaker would only be forced to pay a bond if he misses any of the future hearings.

Quinn isn’t the only legislator facing similar allegations. Former majority leader Rep. Jim Merrill, R-Berkeley, was indicted in December on misconduct and ethics violations charges, on allegations that he violated laws connected to more than $1 million in payments to his company, Geechie Communications, from groups that do businesses before the General Assembly. Merrill has pleaded not guilty.

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