COLUMBIA — House Speaker Bobby Harrell has some powerful legal muscle behind him as he faces a state inquiry into allegations that he used his campaign account and legislative office for personal gain.
Charleston attorney Gedney Howe said in February that he had been retained as Harrell's private counsel during an initial investigation by State Law Enforcement Division agents.
Howe is known for having represented high-profile South Carolina politicians before, including state Rep. Tim Wilkes of Winnsboro, the only state lawmaker who was prosecuted but found not guilty during the “Operation Lost Trust” corruption scandal that rocked South Carolina in 1990.
Now, another notable attorney with ties to Lost Trust is advising Harrell, former U.S. attorney Bart Daniel. Daniel, now in private practice in Charleston, was the one prosecuting lawmakers then, not representing them as he is now.
Daniel said this week that he actually has been working for Harrell alongside Howe, though the speaker's office in February said Howe was Harrell's private attorney. Daniel said he and Harrell, a Charleston Republican, have a long-standing relationship.
Daniel's specialties include white-collar and business cases.
The question of how Harrell is funding his legal defense remains open. Harrell spokesman Greg Foster has said in response to recent questions that Harrell's office will not be commenting on any aspect of the investigation.
Gov. Nikki Haley paid for private representation through her campaign account as she has faced long-standing ethics allegations from GOP activist John Rainey.
Harrell has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing in reaction to allegations by S.C. Policy Council President Ashley Landess, saying she has launched “a baseless attack that is driven by personal and political vendetta.”
State Attorney General Alan Wilson's office in February asked SLED to investigate Landess' complaint.
That inquiry has begun, but it's unclear how long it will take. SLED's policy is not to comment on any investigation while it is ongoing.
Reach Stephen Largen at 864-641-8172 and follow him on Twitter @stephenlargen.
Previous versions of this story had an incorrect first name for former state Rep. Tim Wilkes. The Post and Courier regrets the error.