State Politics

SC House GOP fails to get lawsuit seeking records, tossed out

A court dismissed an appeal Friday aimed at tossing out a lawsuit seeking S.C. House Republican Caucus financial records tied to an ongoing State House corruption investigation.

The State newspaper and other media groups sued the GOP Caucus last year, after they were denied access to financial records that the caucus handed over to the S.C. Law Enforcement Division as part of a State House corruption probe led by special prosecutor David Pascoe.

The caucus maintained it is exempt from the state's Freedom of Information Act law and asked a Circuit Court judge to dismiss the case. When that court refused to dismiss the case, the caucus appealed to the S.C. Court of Appeals.

Appeals Court Chief Judge James Lockemy on Friday dismissed the caucus' appeal. The caucus now can ask the Appeals Court to reconsider, appeal to the state Supreme Court, or the lawsuit could be returned to Circuit Court for an eventual trial.

A half-dozen Republican lawmakers, including a former S.C. House speaker, have been indicted as part of the corruption probe. Three have entered guilty pleas.

At the center of the case was former state Rep. Rick Quinn, who resigned and pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor in December. Quinn was sentenced last month to probation and community service. Quinn was a former head of the GOP caucus.

"The Freedom of Information Act exists for citizens to find out what their government is doing," said attorney Jay Bender, who represented The State newspaper and others in the case. "It's particularly important, in this instance, that the public have access to the records and meetings of the House Republican Caucus because the caucus is the majority of the House of Representatives."

Caucus attorney Mark Moore said Friday that the caucus would respond to the court's order in due time, adding that he generally does not comment on pending litigation.

Maayan Schechter: 803-771-8657, @MaayanSchechter