COLUMBIA — Gov. Nikki Haley expressed concern Wednesday with how Attorney General Alan Wilson and his staff have handled a “mess” of a situation erupting from 1st Circuit Solicitor David Pascoe’s firing amid a Statehouse corruption probe.
“I think it’s an embarrassing mess,” Haley told reporters in her first public comments on the feud. “I hope the courts will quickly intervene and do something about it.”
Haley wouldn’t comment on whether the ordeal between Wilson and Pascoe might jeopardize the integrity of the ongoing investigation.
“That’s not anything for me to comment on,” Haley said, adding “I don’t want to be aware of any of that.”
The governor went on to say the dispute further illustrates the need for lawmakers to act now on her years-old call for a Statehouse ethics overhaul.
“It shows you why I have tried so hard to fight for ethics reform in this state,” she said. “For four years I have fought for ethics reform because we need to start getting through this mess.”
For his part, Wilson issued a written statement Tuesday in which he disavowed an email sent by a top aide describing an apparent plot to discredit Pascoe, the special prosecutor Wilson had appointed for the Statehouse corruption probe.
In that email, Wilson’s deputy chief of staff, Adam Piper, sent a message on Friday to South Carolina GOP Party Chairman Matt Moore recommending how Moore could highlight various ways in which Pascoe is allegedly “tainted.”
Wilson fired Pascoe, a Dorchester County Democrat, last week in a dispute over who has the proper authority in moving the Statehouse probe to a grand jury — Pascoe as the appointed prosecutor or Wilson as the attorney general who, by statute, oversees the panel.
In a written statement, Wilson said he was unaware of the controversial email sent by Piper.
“When I learned of the email, I asked Mr. Piper to please refrain from sending emails or texts on matters regarding the office, even to trusted friends on his own time,” Wilson stated. “All future discussions involving Mr. Pascoe’s actions should take place in a court of law.”
Piper has denied plotting with high-powered Republican consultants against Pascoe. He has said he was just sharing his private thoughts with an old friend when he sent the message to Moore.
“My e-mail was a private e-mail sent from my personal account to Matt Moore’s personal account,” Piper said in a statement to The Post and Courier on Monday.
Piper continued: “I was in his (Moore’s) wedding and we have always been there for one another. We’ve traded lots of messages over the years ranging from political and personal advice to baseball, basketball, and bible studies.”
The email Moore received from Piper was sent Friday, two days after Wilson publicly blasted Pascoe as “tainted” in a news conference.
“If there is a way for the party to reveal David Pascoe is Dick Harpootlian’s Mini-Me/Sock Puppet/Clone, it would be beneficial for years to come for the party,” Piper wrote. “Idea for you: ‘Pascoe is tainted for other reasons. He’s a Democrat political hack and Dick Harpootlian’s mini-me who has relied on Harpootlian throughout his career.”
Harpootlian is a longtime Democratic party leader and a past party chairman.
Piper is also named in a text message exchange between Moore and Trey Walker, a former aide to Haley and currently a lobbyist for BlueCross BlueShield.
Others named in the text include Lt. Gov. Henry McMaster, a former attorney general and former chairman of the GOP state party; Tony Denny, one of the Republican Party’s most well-connected consultants; and the “Quinn’s,” though it’s unclear whether that refers to Richard Quinn, the consultant who created Richard Quinn & Associates and/or his son, Rep. Rick Quinn, R-Cayce.
Walker said he had discussed with those mentioned above “who was best to pitch you on engaging in this as SCGOP chair.”
The dispute over the firing likely is to be decided by the S.C. Supreme Court. It represents the latest twist in a probe of potential wrongdoing by unidentified lawmakers whose names are in a redacted State Law Enforcement Division report about possible Statehouse corruption. Wilson had recused himself from the case and “firewalled” his office from any involvement in investigating lawmakers whose names are redacted in the report.