SLED begins SC speaker investigation

File Photo (WCIV)

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP/WCIV) - State police have officially begun investigating an ethics complaint against House Speaker Bobby Harrell.

State Law Enforcement Division spokesman Thom Berry said Thursday that agents had been assigned to the investigation.

On Feb. 14, Attorney General Alan Wilson forwarded to SLED a complaint accusing Harrell of violating state ethics laws. South Carolina Policy Council president Ashley Landess has alleged Harrell used his office to boost his finances by using undue influence to get a permit for his pharmaceutical business.

The Policy Council also took issue with Harrell appointing his brother to a committee that screens judicial candidates and picks the top three for each seat that the Legislature gets to choose from.

The Charleston Republican has called the complaint a "baseless" attack driven by a "personal and political vendetta."

Speaker Harrell's attorney, Gedney M. Howe, confirmed Harrell has retained him in regards to the SLED investigation into Harrell's campaign finances.

Howe said he is a longtime friend of Harrell's and he was hired to "be a sounding board for Speaker Harrell and to help steer him through the legal process during the investigation."

No charges have been filed.