Alan Wilson - Forced to Return Funds ...

Alan Wilson - Forced to Return Funds on Ethics Violation - SC Attorney General

Posted in the Columbia Forum

Corruption

Sims, NC

#1 Mar 8, 2014
South Carolina's top prosecutor Alan Wilson needs to refund $200 to a lobbyist who donated to his 2010 campaign, the State Ethics Commission said Friday.

Commission attorney Cathy Hazelwood said she sent letters Thursday to Attorney General Alan Wilson and former state Rep. Joyce Hearn, who gave $150 to his campaign in November 2009 and $50 in March 2010. State law bars legislators and statewide officers from taking money from lobbyists, and Hearn was a registered lobbyist for the South Carolina Credit Union League both years.

The prohibition "goes both ways. A lobbyist can't give, and a candidate can't receive," Hazelwood said.

Her letter gives Wilson's campaign 10 days to fix the problem.

Wilson's political consultant, Richard Quinn, said Friday the campaign was unaware Hearn was a lobbyist then.

But Hazelwood said it doesn't matter when Hearn's lobbying job ended. Lobbyists can't make a donation at any time during a year they lobby the Legislature, even if the job lasts only a day, she said.

"The termination of the relationship does nothing," she said.

Hearn, a House member from 1975-1989, worked as a lobbyist for the credit union league from January through May of 2009 and 2010, corresponding with the January-to-June legislative session. She continued lobbying for the league through June 2013, according to her disclosures with the ethics commission.

Her donations were first reported by the Charleston Free Times.

Last March, Wilson's campaign corrected his filings after a review by an independent accountant found $134,000 in previously unreported donations and expenses surrounding his 2010 win. His campaign chairman attributed the 68 donations and 16 payments to human error.

As South Carolina's attorney general, Wilson's job includes prosecuting criminal violations of ethics law.

Asked whether errors in Wilson's own campaign filings affect his ability to do that, John Crangle of Common Cause said it points to a needed change in the system. Crangle has long argued the SC attorney general's race should be publicly funded. Any attorney general taking private money from special interest groups is "fundamentally an invitation to corruption," Crangle said.

"It shows at a minimum that some campaign staffer fumbled the ball," he said. "It does cast a cloud."

Wilson's investigation into former GOP Lt. Gov. Ken Ard resulted in Ard resigning and pleading guilty in 2012 to misdemeanor ethics violations. That came nine months after Ard paid a $48,000 fine to the state Ethics Commission.

In January, Wilson announced he'd sent ethics allegations against House Speaker Bobby Harrell to the grand jury, a month after receiving a report from the State Law Enforcement Division. Harrell, R-Charleston, maintains he's done nothing wrong and said the announcement's timing, a day before the legislative session started, appeared to be aimed at hurting him politically.

Wilson, also a Republican, is seeking a second term this year. As of his January ethics filing, he had nearly $635,000 cash available.

http://www.postandcourier.com/article/2014030...
SweatShop

Sims, NC

#2 Mar 9, 2014
COLUMBIA — The campaign of South Carolina’s top prosecutor is refunding $200 to a lobbyist who donated to his 2010 campaign and correcting campaign filings so that a legal firm didn’t appear to give the maximum donation twice, following notification from the State Ethics Commission.
Richard Quinn, the cam­paign spokesman for At­torney General Alan Wilson, said Friday that one of the $3,500 donations from Hall & Bowers, a legal firm that represents Republicans, should have been applied to debt from the previous cycle.
“Our campaign will continue to be transparent to the public regarding all campaign activity and will remain vigilant to comply with all ethics laws,” Quinn said.
Commission attorney Cathy Hazelwood said she notified the campaign about what appeared to be an excessive contribution. Hall & Bowers gave $3,500 – the legal limit per campaign cycle – in September 2010, January 2011 and September 2012, according to campaign filings.
Hazelwood also sent let­ters Thursday to Wilson and former state Rep. Joyce Hearn, who gave $150 to his campaign in November 2009 and $50 in March 2010. State law bars legislators and statewide officers from taking money from lobbyists, and Hearn was a registered lobbyist for the South Carolina Credit Union League both years.
The prohibition “goes both ways. A lobbyist can’t give, and a candidate can’t receive,” Hazelwood said.
Quinn said Hearn informed the campaign she was no longer a registered lobbyist when she gave. But Hearn disputed that, telling The Associated Press she didn’t realize she couldn’t give to a candidate for statewide office. She thought the prohibition was just on House and Senate members.
Though she doesn’t remember the details from four years ago, she said:“There’s no way I would’ve said I was not a lobbyist.”
“I was not aware it would be a major deal since I don’t lobby in front of constitutional officers,” she said.“The people I represented were before the Legislature.”
Hazelwood said whether Hearn was registered on the day she gave doesn’t matter anyway. Lobbyists can’t make a donation at any time during a year they lobby the Legislature, even if the job lasts only a day, she said.
Hearn, a House member from 1975-1989, worked as a lobbyist for the credit union league from January-May of 2009 and 2010, corresponding with the legislative session. She continued lobbying for the league through June 2013, according to her disclosures with the ethics commission.
Last March, Wilson’s campaign corrected his filings after a review by an independent accountant found $134,000 in previously unreported donations and expenses surrounding his 2010 win. His campaign chairman Thad Westbrook attributed the 68 donations and 16 payments to human error.
As attorney general, Wilson’s job includes prosecuting criminal violations of ethics law.
John Crangle, of the watchdog group Common Cause, has long argued the attorney general’s race should be publicly funded. Any attorney general taking private money from special interest groups is “fundamentally an invitation to corruption,” Crangle said.
“It shows at a minimum that some campaign staffer fumbled the ball,” he said.“It does cast a cloud.”
Wilson’s investigation into former GOP Lt. Gov. Ken Ard resulted in Ard’s resignation and guilty plea in 2012 to misdemeanor ethics violations. That came nine months after Ard paid a $48,000 fine to the state Ethics Commission.
In January, Wilson announced he’d sent ethics allegations against House Speaker Bobby Harrell to a grand jury, a month after receiving a report from the State Law Enforcement Division. Harrell, R-Charleston, maintains he’s done nothing wrong and said the announcement’s timing, the day before the legislative session started, appeared to be aimed at hurting him politically.

http://chronicle.augusta.com/news/metro/2014-...
illegalcontribut ions

Sims, NC

#3 Mar 9, 2014
Ethics regulators question lobbyist’s campaign contribution to S.C. attorney general
by Corey Hutchins on Fri, Mar 7, 2014 at 11:05 AM

South Carolina ethics regulators want to know how money from a lobbyist ended up in the campaign account of Republican Attorney General Alan Wilson. Lobbyists aren’t allowed to give money to lawmakers or statewide public officials.

The contributions in question, made five years ago, came from Joyce Hearn, who was a lobbyist for the South Carolina Credit Union League during years when she gave a total of $200 to Wilson. The money came from a $150 donation on Nov. 13, 2009 and a $50 donation on March 11, 2010. Hearn had de-registered as a lobbyist on May 30, 2010, but that doesn’t matter, says the State Ethics Commission’s deputy director and attorney Cathy Hazelwood. Even if a lobbyist de-registers in South Carolina, he or she cannot give direct campaign contributions to a lawmaker or statewide candidate during the year they lobbied. Hearn had registered as a lobbyist in January of 2009 and 2010, meaning she couldn’t give money to any candidate that year.

Hazelwood says the ethics agency has sent a letter to both of them about the matter.

“The letter is going to ask for a refund from Wilson to Hearn,” and an explanation from the then-lobbyist, she says. At this point, that’s the process the ethics agency will go through, Hazelwood says. But that could change if someone were to file a formal complaint with the agency. If that happens the Ethics Commission will go through the complaint process, which could include formal investigation.

At this point, Hazewood says,“We’re going to put both of them on notice.”

Wilson didn't respond to a message, but his senior campaign spokesman Richard Quinn issued a statement.

"Mrs. Hearn had informed us that she was no longer registered as a lobbyist but she had in fact not waited through the one calendar year cooling off period and even re-registered at a later date," Quinn said. "Her $200 in contributions will be returned.
Our campaign will continue to be transparent to the public regarding all campaign activity and will remain vigilant to comply with all ethics laws."

Last year Wilson's campaign hired a forensic accountant to review his ethics reports after it was revealed he'd failed to report $134,000 in campaign donations and payments. Because he self-reported what his campaign called “simple clerical or scrivener’s errors” to the ethics agency, he paid no fines .

As for Hearn, who is no longer a lobbyist, she says she didn’t know she wasn’t allowed to give campaign money to a statewide candidate during a year she lobbied the Legislature.

“It was a mistake on my part,” she says. Hearn says she’s known the Wilson family for a long time, and remembers back when she was a campaign manager in 1970s for former U.S. Congressman Floyd Spence a young Alan Wilson used to come in and help stuff envelopes. Now he’s the attorney general and his father, Joe Wilson, holds Spence’s seat in Congress

John Crangle, who directs the state chapter of Common Cause and has advocated for stricter ethics rules, says the issue underscores how the Legislature has neglected the State Ethics Commission by cutting its budget for several years. And he says in cases like these just refunding the contribution isn’t enough.

“You can’t cure the problem by giving the money back,” Crangle says.“They did the criminal act. In my view, if you take the illegal contribution and you put it in your campaign account and later on you cut a refund check you still violated the law. Each candidate should have a mechanism in place to monitor the total contribution of every source.”

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