Pascoe and Quinns.jpg (copy) (copy)

Special prosecutor David Pascoe walks past former Rep. Rick Quinn and his father, political consultant Richard Quinn, at the Beaufort County Courthouse on Feb. 12, 2018. File/Grace Beahm Alford/Staff

COLUMBIA — The special prosecutor in the Statehouse corruption probe asked a judge Thursday to release a grand jury report "exposing vulnerabilities" in how South Carolina legislators operate while offering better methods in holding politicians accountable.

The report, prepared by prosecutors, was approved at the end of the State Grand Jury's two-year term in June, according to a motion filed by special prosecutor David Pascoe.

The report was sealed at the request of prosecutors as a precaution during the five-year investigation that exposed how some state lawmakers pocketed campaign money while others used their offices to help companies and state agencies that paid them or their employers. 

The probe ensnared six Republican legislators and crippled the Columbia firm run by one of the South's most influential consultants whose clients included some of the state's most powerful businesses and politicians. 

"There is no longer any compelling reason for the report to remain under seal," Pascoe's motion said.

The court filing does not say specifically why Pascoe believes the report can be made public now.

The motion says the report can be released when the "underlying investigation has concluded."

No one new has been indicted in the probe for almost a year, suggesting the investigation might be drawing to a close. A former lawmaker who was indicted last year received another charge last month.

In addition to sharing the grand jury's recommendations to change the state's ethics laws, Pascoe said releasing the report would "end public speculation about this investigation" that has gone after a House Speaker and two former House majority leaders.

Not releasing the report, he wrote, "would be an affront to our constitutional commitment to open courts."

Pascoe declined comment.

While Pascoe has not sent anyone to prison, four lawmakers have resigned and paid fines after pleading guilty. Two former legislators await trial.

In recent years, Pascoe has tried to demonstrate how a group of legislators who hired the powerful consulting firm run by Richard Quinn for political campaigns and then pushed legislation that favored Quinn's business and state agency clients. 

Quinn became one of the South's top consultants with a list of political clients that included election runs by President Ronald Reagan, Gov. Henry McMaster, U.S. Sens. Lindsey Graham and Strom Thurmond, and a number of state legislators.

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He also represented several of the state’s largest businesses, including energy giant SCANA and insurer Blue Cross Blue Shield, and large public agencies, like the State Ports Authority and the University of South Carolina.

Representatives of companies and state agencies that worked with Quinn turned over documents and testified before the grand jury. The motion suggests some of them signed "corporate integrity agreements" that Pascoe also wants released.

The court filing does not include any description of those agreements.

Quinn was indicted in the Statehouse probe last year but the charges were dropped as part of a guilty plea by his son, former House Majority Leader Rick Quinn. Richard Quinn’s firm was fined $5,500 for failing to register as a lobbyist.

Quinn's firm has been damaged by departing clients — including McMaster, Graham and the Ports Authority. 

The remaining two former lawmakers still facing charges in the probe actually worked for Quinn's firm while they were in office. Former House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Harrison has a trial on misconduct, conspiracy and perjury charges set for Oct. 22. Former Rep. Tracy Edge, who oversaw the House budget-writing panel on medical affairs, also received the same charges. He has no trial date. Quinn's clients have included a statewide legal organizations and a major hospital group.  

Harrison, of Columbia, was paid $900,000 over 12 years by Quinn's firm, while Edge, of Myrtle Beach, earned nearly $300,000 over a decade, according to court proceedings. Their employment with Quinn ended at the same time each of them left office.

Both former lawmakers deny the charges from the Statehouse probe. 

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Columbia Bureau Chief

Shain runs The Post and Courier's team based in South Carolina's capital city. He was editor of Free Times and has been a reporter and editor for newspapers in Charlotte, Columbia and Myrtle Beach.