COLUMBIA - House Speaker Bobby Harrell, R-Charleston, sought to clarify comments he made on a Charleston radio program Monday when he said an ethics-related investigation into him may be the result of an effort to diminish the Charleston area's influence in the Legislature.

Harrell told radio station WTMA that he may have been "targeted" in order to weaken Charleston's influence in the Statehouse, according to S.C. Radio Network. "We used to have the President of the Senate (Glenn McConnell) from Charleston, the Speaker of the House from Charleston, and (Governor Sanford) was from down here," he said to host Tara Servatius. "We had a lot of folks in powerful positions from down here."

Harrell faces ethics-related allegations that he used campaign funds for personal use. Those allegations and others are being investigated by a state grand jury, a process that Harrell has said is politically motivated by Attorney General Alan Wilson.

Asked Tuesday about his comments on the radio program, Harrell said that the theory was one that other Charleston Republicans have advocated. "I've had a number of people from the Lowcountry tell me that they think that's what's going on and that's what I was trying to express on the radio," he said.

Harrell said he does not believe the theory. "I don't think there's anything that organized going on," he said. "But I am hearing that just about everywhere I go in the Lowcountry."

Charleston lawmakers used to control more key positions in the Legislature. "We have fewer people in positions than we had a few years ago," he said. "I think it is the normal cycle."

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Harrell said, however, that he is the first speaker from Charleston in 150 years. The position is arguably the most powerful in the Legislature. "It's been a long time since Charleston held this position," he said.

Reach Jeremy Borden at 708-5837.