As criminal conspiracy charges were outlined in court Tuesday against S.C. political kingmaker Richard Quinn, it became clear the allegations will cause embarrassment for some major S.C. institutions.
Among those institutions? The University of South Carolina; the embattled, Cayce-based SCANA utility; the Midlands’ largest hospital-care system, Palmetto Health; and insurance giant BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina.
Those institutions are key members of the Midlands business elite.
But their reputations could be in for a black eye as their chief executives find themselves on the witness stand to explain their role in Quinn’s woes.
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The simple answer is: They were entangled by paying Quinn, who, prosecutors allege, was bribing lawmakers to get legislation passed — or killed — to benefit his clients, including members of the business elite.
Some in that elite will contend that they did not know Quinn even was lobbying the Legislature. He insisted he didn’t, and one — USC — has said its contracts with Quinn did not include lobbying.
The more complex question is: Shouldn’t they have known better?
Consider one example — USC.
In outlining the charges of illegal influence-peddling at the State House against Quinn, special prosecutor David Pascoe Tuesday accused the GOP kingmaker of having state Sen. John Courson, the Richland Republican whose district includes USC’s campus, get a state agency to delay a vote on a private company’s application to buy the Charleston School of Law.
That school competed with another Quinn client, USC. USC paid Quinn’s firm $491,900 from 2011 to 2015 for, it said, public relations and consulting work.
However, the Quinn firm also represented InfiLaw, the would-be buyer of the Charleston law school, which competes with USC’s law school.
Pascoe alleged Quinn's firm drafted a letter, on behalf of InfiLaw, for Courson. Cuorson sent that letter to the state Higher Education Commission, which oversees S.C. institutions of higher education, asking for a delay in its InfiLaw vote, which was granted.
Pascoe also alleged Quinn's son, suspended state Rep. Rick Quinn, R-Lexington, sponsored unspecified legislation that would benefit USC.
The university denies any improprieties.
However, it was no secret that state Rep. Quinn, who also was indicted, was the son of Richard Quinn.
And it was no secret Richard Quinn & Associates was a political kingmaker. On its web site, the Quinn firm bragged about its success in helping candidates get elected to statewide and legislative offices. Once in office, those lawmakers appropriated billions of taxpayer dollars, including tens of millions to USC.
In August, USC president Harris Pastides testified before the Statewide Grand Jury investigating State House corruption, which indicted the Quinns. At the time — and again Thursday — USC said it is not a target of the investigation. Instead, the school says it is a witness.
"The university did not hire Richard Quinn/RQA as a lobbyist and has no knowledge of the allegation," spokesman Wes Hickman said in a statement, using an abbreviation for Richard Quinn & Associates. "Neither Richard Quinn nor RQA have done any work for the university since June 2015, more than two years ago."
Others among the Midlands business elite also find themselves entangled in the Quinndom’s woes.
For example, Quinn is alleged to have made roughly $300,000 in payments to former state Rep. Tracy Edge, R-Horry, At the time, Edge chaired a S.C. House health care panel.
That panel oversaw legislation of interest to a pair of Quinn clients — Palmetto Health and BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina.
BlueCross BlueShield did not respond to a request for comment.
However, Palmetto Health chief executive Chuck Beaman also was called before the Statewide Grand Jury in August.
Through a spokesperson, Palmetto Health only would acknowledge it "has used the services of Richard Quinn and Associates and many other consultants over the years."
"Any further comment on this matter (would be) inappropriate," said spokeswoman Tammie Epps.
However, should the Quinns — or Edge — ever come to trial, Palmetto Health, USC and others will have no option but to answer questions about their relationship with the Quinns.