COLUMBIA -- SLED and the 5th Circuit solicitor's office are investigating the finances of Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Alvin Greene to see whether any laws have been broken in the way he has been representing his financial situation to the state court system.
SLED will use a new state law that allows the agency to issue an administrative subpoena to financial institutions, agency director Reggie Lloyd confirmed Sunday.
But a spokesman for the state attorney general’s office, whose authorization is needed for the subpoenas, says no application had been received as of late Monday morning.
Gov. Mark Sanford signed the new law last Thursday. The law requires banks to turn over to SLED basic information about account holders in cases of suspected financial wrongdoing.
The confirmation of the formal investigation into Greene's finances is the latest wrinkle in events surrounding Greene, who since winning the June 8 Democratic primary has attracted state and national attention.
Greene, 32, won 59 percent of the vote in an upset against Vic Rawl, a former circuit judge widely expected to trounce the unknown Greene. Greene was unemployed and had no organized campaign, and had been discharged "involuntarily" from the Army. He lived at home with his father in Clarendon County.
Greene's victory took on added strangeness when The Associated Press reported Greene was facing felony obscenity charges arising from a University of South Carolina student's allegation that he had harassed her with computer pornography. After that November charge, Greene told a magistrate he didn't have enough money to afford a lawyer and was appointed -- at taxpayers' expense -- a public defender. Greene has said he is innocent of the pornography charge.
Then, in March, Greene somehow came up with $10,400 in cash to pay the Democratic Party filing fee to run for U.S. Senate.
Lloyd said his agency's inquiry was triggered by inconsistencies between Greene's assertion to the court that he had no money and needed a taxpayer-supported lawyer, and his unexplained acquisition of $10,400 to pay the filing fee.
"We want to see how he came up with the money," Lloyd said.
Greene reported just over $1,000 in monthly income on court paperwork, and has told reporters that the $10,400 was money he had saved. But he declined to produce records to show where the money came from.
Fifth Circuit Solicitor Barney Giese, reached at home Sunday afternoon, confirmed his office was working with SLED. He declined further comment.
National news media have portrayed the Greene situation as yet another bizarre act in South Carolina's unending episodes of political weirdness, including racist statements and public adultery confessions and charges by prominent people in public life.
Greene's situation has embarrassed Democrats, who are mortified their party nominated such an unknown to face U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., in November. The GOP already has begun to use Greene's victory to belittle the gubernatorial bid of Sen. Vincent Sheheen, D-Kershaw. Despite there being no evidence Sheheen and Greene even knew each other, Republicans already publicly assert that voters should consider the two Democrats a package.
Dick Harpootlian, a former 5th Circuit solicitor and former S.C. State Democratic Party chairman, said Sunday he was glad to hear a credible law agency is probing Greene's finances.
"Forget about the politics," Harpootlian said. "It's essential for the integrity of the courts this be cleared up. Someone made a representation to the court that he was indigent and then got what would be thousands of dollars of free legal services at taxpayer expense."
Harpootlian, who has extensive criminal law experience, said it's rare for law enforcement to actually verify bank accounts of people who claim they don't have enough money to hire a private attorney and therefore qualify for a taxpayer-paid lawyer. If someone deliberately lied about their financial resources to get a free lawyer, Harpootlian said, that could be grounds for criminal charges.
In another development Sunday, 5th Circuit Public Defender Doug Strickler said he no longer represents Greene.
Early last week, Strickler told The State, he received a letter from a private attorney telling him he represents Greene in the pornography charges.
"We have been relieved by the court," Strickler said.
Greene has told the Associated Press he hired Columbia attorney Eleazer Carter, who has said he was hoping to represent Greene but did not immediately return messages Monday.
The attention surrounding Greene’s candidacy has attracted several other candidates. Supporters of Linda Ketner, who as a Democrat two years ago nearly unseated GOP incumbent U.S. Rep. Henry Brown, are collecting petition signatures to get her name on the Senate ballot.
And anti-nuclear activist Tom Clements has filed paperwork to represent the Green Party in the November election.