AG Wilson: Atty James Smith Represented Me at “No Charge.” Records Show $28k in Fees Paid to Smith via his Campaign Account.

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Amidst the reports of General Wilson‘s office strongly urging lawmakers to support James E. Smith for the resident circuit court judgeship in the 5th circuit, there is a new audio of the AG actually ‘owning’ his endorsement of Smith. As heard in the link below, Wilson explains that Smith was part of a small handful of friends who would speak to him publicly when very few would do so, and that Smith represented him “at great peril” to himself, and at NO CHARGE.

In actuality, however, there were significant charges that would have equated to approximately 1/3 of Wilson’s net salary for 2015.

For context, the ‘frivolous charges’ that the AG referenced in the audio centered on the Richard Quinn et al investigation that snowballed after former House Speaker Bobby Harrell‘s routine misuse of campaign money finally reached the AG’s desk. Since the AG had recused himself from this investigation, Wilson had appointed Solicitor David Pascoe whose relentless pursuit to “ferret” out the corruption was appreciated by those tired of the ‘pay to play’ culture.

Ostensibly due to two generations of the Wilsons’ employment of – and relationship with – some of the perpetrators, the AG office would subsequently demand that Pascoe’s work be rewarded with rescinding his prosecutorial authority. The solicitor, however, stood his ground all the way to the state’s highest court and Pascoe would ultimately prevail, reaffirming his prosecutorial authority as the AG office was dealt a large slice of humble pie.

As was first reported in early 2016 by FITSNEWS, the email of Kevin Marsh and others show how they lamented the article that showed “their” money being spent on Smith:

Our report earlier this month of the AG’s spending of campaign finance funds to celebrate his birthday raised quite a few questions. AG Wilson’s office could certainly choose to clarify if this was a campaign event and if money to fund an upcoming campaign was collected at said event; however, to date, it appears that the AG would rather release the RSVPs of his staff and assert that the media, his constituents, and donors are not privy to additional details.

Wilson is certainly no stranger to investigations by the Senate Ethics Committee which can often appear to lack enthusiasm – particularly with one of its own. As in Harrell’s case – the onus (ironically) to prosecute potential criminal activity would typically fall on the Office of the AG, so it remains to be seen how such a scenario would be handled if the committee turned a blind eye to wrongdoing.

“Pursuant to your request, the records of the Office were searched, and the responsive documents we located are attached. Please be advised that most of the items you requested are not public records prepared, owned, used, in the possession of, or retained by the Office of the South Carolina Attorney General.” (emphasis added)

Harley L. Kirkland
Assistant Deputy Attorney General

And…it may not just be the spending of campaign funds.

We requested the Office of the AG’s plan of correction in the attached Freedom of Information Act Request (FOIA) based on the past two years of audits of the Office of the State Auditor (OSA) finding inconsistencies; that request was also declined.

A few of the issues in the OSA’s report that particularly caught our attention included:

  • Two of the seven bank reconciliations were not timely performed nor reviewed in a timely manner.
  • The month end balances for three of the bank reconciliations agreed to the checkbook balance but did not agree to the SCEIS general ledger.
  • Five of the seven monthly bank reconciliations were not properly reviewed or approved by an individual who was different from the preparer in accordance with Office procedures.
  • Like the finding reported in the prior year, supporting documentation for two of the bank reconciliations did not explain the differences between the book balance and the bank balance.
  • The Office has not taken adequate corrective action for the Composite Reservoir Accounts as addressed in the Composite Reservoir Accounts section of the report.

If questionably inappropriate spending and inconsistent bookkeeping is becoming a pattern at the Office of the AG, it certainly begs the question: At what point would an independent forensic audit be indicated?

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