South Carolina state Rep. Rick Quinn used his public office as a multimillion-dollar money funnel that enriched his family’s powerful political empire while doing the bidding of shadowy corporate interests in the Legislature, prosecutors said Tuesday.
Misconduct charges handed down as part of the ongoing Statehouse corruption probe paint a picture of influence and greed involving a key cog in one of the state’s oldest and more durable political machines.
Quinn, a Lexington Republican, is accused of failing to report more than $4.5 million that unidentified groups had paid to companies operated by him and his father, embattled political consultant Richard Quinn. He then improperly lobbied on their behalf, using his businesses and public office to influence government actions involving those groups, the indictment stated.
The scope of Quinn's alleged conduct is his entire legislative career, from January 1999 to April 15, and includes his 2006 run for state treasurer.
Quinn, 51, also is accused of using his position to improperly steer $271,881 in Republican House Caucus funds to family businesses in which he had a financial interest. He funneled campaign cash to his and his father's companies, as well, the indictment states.
Quinn is the fourth lawmaker snared in the ongoing corruption probe led by 1st Circuit Solicitor David Pascoe. His fate had been the subject of much speculation since news surfaced last year that he and his father had been named in a State Law Enforcement Division report detailing leads in the investigation.
House Speaker Jay Lucas, a fellow Republican, quickly moved Tuesday to suspend Quinn from office until the matter is resolved.
Quinn's father is a kingmaker in South Carolina politics, with a vast stable of clients and tentacles throughout state government. His firm represents more than 25 lawmakers, a couple of large state agencies and a quartet of the state's biggest corporations.
The younger Quinn also works as a campaign consultant and owns Mail Marketing Strategies, a Columbia-based direct-mail company that does work for politicians.
Rick Quinn is charged with one count of common law misconduct in office and one count of statutory misconduct in office. The first charge carries a penalty of up to 10 years in prison and an undetermined fine; the other, up to one year in prison and a $1,000 fine.
Quinn issued a written statement saying he has done nothing wrong and will ask for a speedy trial to resolve the case as quickly as possible.
"After nearly four years of investigation, Mr. Pascoe has accused me of conduct that the supervisory authorities said was legal and proper," he stated. "I have conducted myself in an honorable manner, and I look forward to clearing my family’s good name."
Quinn said the investigation has been unfair to him and his family, and he blamed his indictment on a political feud between Pascoe and Attorney General Alan Wilson, who last year tried to derail the special prosecutor's probe. Quinn said Pascoe is "a partisan Democrat" who covets Wilson's job.
"It is my belief that this public fight between them is the real motivation since I have worked for the Attorney General’s past political campaigns," Quinn stated.
Citing the ongoing investigation, Pascoe declined to comment on the statement or Quinn's indictment.
According to the indictment, Quinn routed business from the House Republican Caucus’s campaign and operating accounts to three companies in which he had a financial stake: First Impressions Inc., a business run by his father as Richard Quinn & Associates; Mail Marketing Strategies; and The Copy Shop. He served as House majority leader from 1999 to 2004, giving him considerable influence over the caucus and its members.
During this time, Quinn allegedly failed to disclose contributions and expenditures made to and from the caucus’ operating account, which were “improperly used for campaign purposes,” the indictment stated. He also used his position to drum up business for Mail Marketing Strategies from other lawmakers, the document said.
Quinn also is accused of filing fraudulent campaign disclosures and improperly benefiting from campaign donations by steering those funds to his and his father's firms.
The Post and Courier and the Center for Public Integrity first raised questions about Quinn's use of campaign donations in the 2015 series "Capitol Gains," which detailed how weak ethics laws allow South Carolina lawmakers to use their campaign war chests as personal ATM machines.