Campaign finance complaints against Wilson are dismissed dismissed

South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson

COLUMBIA - The S.C. Ethics Commission dismissed 29 campaign finance allegations against Attorney General Alan Wilson late last month, saying that the state's top law enforcement official refunded improper or excessive campaign contributions.

All but one of the campaign finance complaints filed against Wilson involved contributions from donors over the state's $3,500-per-cycle maximum. The other involved a donation from a lobbyist, which is banned.

In dismissing the complaints, the commission said in documents released Wednesday that Wilson admitted to errors in his campaign finance reports and quoted him as saying that accepting over-the-limit donations was "inadvertent and unintentional." Wilson also refunded any excess contributions, the commission said.

Under state election laws, donors may only contribute a total of $3,500 to candidates in any election cycle. Many of Wilson's excess contributions involved a timing wrinkle in state law that defines when candidates can accept new contributions after a primary.

Commissioners also elected to dismiss all of the complaints because they could not get in touch with the woman who filed them, Krista Thom of Kansasville, Wis. The inability to contact her "gives rise to the belief that she did not have personal knowledge of the allegations in the complaint," the commission said.

Wilson's high-profile ethics case against former House Speaker Bobby Harrell prompted an examination of Wilson's own campaign finance issues by media and others this spring. In April, the Post and Courier tallied around $75,000 in over-the-limit contributions to the attorney general.

James Smith, Wilson's campaign attorney, said he was pleased the commission dismissed what he called "frivolous" complaints.

Smith said he would evaluate whether action against the people who filed the complaints could be taken. Those who file ethics complaints must affirm that they have personal knowledge of the allegations, Smith said, or could be subject to fines.

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"I guess there's a lot of unanswered questions," said Smith, a House Democrat from Columbia. "I know that we felt like whoever was behind it clearly sought to undermine the reputation and credibility and the work of the attorney general. They obviously failed miserably."

Thom could not immediately be reached.

A letter from attorney Riley A. Bradham accompanied the complaint. Asked what Thom's connection was to South Carolina or Wilson, Bradham declined to comment. He also declined to say if he played any role in the complaint.

"I can't comment on any of that," he said.

Harrell pleaded guilty to using campaign funds for personal use and resigned in October. Wilson had handed over the case to a different prosecutor after the attorney general's motives were questioned and it appeared the case could stall.