Harrell issues statement after Ethics Committee decision on campaign money

Harrell issues statement after Ethics Committee decision on campaign money

COLUMBIA, SC (AP/WCSC) - Former South Carolina House Speaker Bobby Harrell issued a statement Tuesday after the House Ethics Committee said he improperly paid his attorneys last year with campaign money and therefore must hand over $113,500.

The committee voted unanimously Tuesday to require Harrell to pay the state's general fund within 30 days.

In the statement, Harrell said he was notified by the press Tuesday afternoon that Ethics Committee Chairman Kenny Bingham had called the meeting for Tuesday morning.

"He did this without informing me, or anyone on my behalf, that the meeting was taking place or that I was going to be a subject of the meeting," Harrell said in the statement. "I am told the committee met and discussed my campaign disclosure reports.  In that meeting, the committee accused me of violating campaign laws, decided that I had done so, and took action."

The statement continued:

"All of this was done without any notice to me of the meeting and without affording me the opportunity to be heard by the committee. This was a clear violation of my due process rights.

"This action, instigated by Kenny Bingham, was caused to take place the day my daughter-in-law is being admitted to the hospital to give birth to my and Cathy's first grandchild.

"All of the issues discussed by the committee were included as subjects of last year's investigation.  I will be happy to discuss this with anyone after my granddaughter comes home from the hospital."

Bingham says the payments to attorneys last April and July would have been permissible if Harrell had ultimately been cleared of wrongdoing. But Bingham says a committee opinion issued in 2013 makes it that clear campaign cash cannot be used for attorneys in cases of misconduct.

Ordinarily, the committee would require offenders to reimburse their campaign fund, but Harrell had to empty his account as part of his plea deal last fall.

Harrell resigned last October after pleading guilty to six campaign finance violations.

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