AG: State won't investigate Harrell spending at this time

Bobby Harrell (provided)

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCIV/AP) - Groups from opposite ends of the political spectrum are calling for an independent investigation into House Speaker Bobby Harrell's spending.

The South Carolina Progressive Network is holding a news conference Tuesday at the Statehouse with Ashley Landess of the libertarian SC Policy Council.

John Crangle of Common Cause is also expected on hand. Crangle has asked the House Ethics Committee to waive its jurisdiction and allow legal authorities to investigate Harrell's campaign spending.

Last month, Harrell's campaign spending came under fire after The Post and Courier reported that the powerful Charleston Republican had been vague in reporting hundreds of thousands of dollars in reimbursements from his campaign account.

Harrell was adamant he had done nothing improper, showing The Associated Press documents to back up his assertions.

South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson said Tuesday his office would not ask state officials to investigate.

Wilson released the following statement:

"As the state's chief prosecutor, this Office resolves matters in the public's best interest. There is an established record of our following the legal process. It must be given the chance to proceed as designed by law. That is what we will do in this instance.

"South Carolina statute 8-13-540(3) authorizes the House Ethics committee to investigate this type of allegation concerning House members. That law says '[a]fter the hearing, the ethics committee shall determine its findings of fact (d) in the case of an alleged criminal violation, [it shall] refer the matter to the Attorney General for investigation.'

"For that reason it is premature for this Office to ask SLED to investigate this matter at this time. The process must proceed as prescribed by state law. Should the House Ethics Committee not act, this Office is then prepared to do what is in the public's best interest."