MYRTLE BEACH — In nearly two decades at the South Carolina Statehouse, former Rep. Tracy Edge built a reputation as an influential, pro-business lawmaker. But his indictment last month on corruption charges has cast a darker shadow on his tenure, raising the question of whether he used his office to do the bidding of his employers.
Edge, a Republican who represented North Myrtle Beach from 1997 to 2014, worked for one of the biggest interests in Horry County — Burroughs & Chapin Company Inc., a land developer that shaped the face of the Grand Strand. For much of that period, Edge also reportedly worked for Richard Quinn, a Columbia-based political consultant and power broker with tentacles throughout state government.
In 2013, those two interests collided: Quinn met and attempted to woo Buck Waters, the chairman of Burroughs & Chapin's board, authorities said. Securing Burroughs & Chapin as a client would have given Quinn a foothold in the lucrative Myrtle Beach market and provided the company with the services of a veteran strategist with a stable of high-powered clients in key public positions.
It remains unclear what became of that proposed alliance, and special prosecutor David Pascoe hasn't revealed many specific details about Edge's alleged misdeeds. What is known is that Edge has been charged with misconduct in office, criminal conspiracy and perjury in a corruption probe that so far has netted indictments of six current or former lawmakers, along with Quinn himself.
Harold Worley, a county councilman from North Myrtle Beach who previously represented the same district as Edge, said he was shocked at the indictment.
"I try to keep my personal business and my political life totally separate, and these boys that try to mix it up, it’s just trouble waiting to happen," Worley said.
Edge declined to comment for this story. But in an Oct. 25 Facebook post, he urged supporters to withhold judgment on him.
"Over the next day or so some of you may read or hear things about me that cast doubt about my integrity and ethics in a one sided narrative designed to cast me in the worst light possible, leaving out important facts and details," he wrote. "All I can ask is that you do not doubt me until you learn of and hear of the complete story with the missing details, and then you will see this in a far different way then the way it is being presented now."
A political family
Like many in Horry County, Edge's family has roots in the tourism business, operating the Jamaica Motel in North Myrtle Beach.
The Edges have also long been entrenched in local politics. Tracy Edge's father, Robert Edge Sr., served as the first mayor of North Myrtle Beach when the city incorporated in the 1960s. His brother, Robert Edge, Jr., served on Horry County Council and has been coroner since 1988, making him one of the longest-serving elected officials in the county.
Tracy Edge followed suit, serving on North Myrtle Beach City Council for two years before winning the District 104 House seat in 1996. Most people knew he worked for Burroughs & Chapin. But few seemed to know Edge also worked on the side for Quinn. Pascoe has said Quinn paid Edge nearly $300,000 between 2004 and 2014 — income that Edge failed to report on campaign disclosure firms, though he knew Richard Quinn's clients employed lobbyists in the Statehouse.
Elected officials and political observers in Horry County said Tracy Edge was helpful on crucial issues for the coastal region, including securing state funding for beach renourishment. Holly Heniford, who served as a lobbyist for a local board of Realtors, said Edge also helped with several land-use regulations.
"My interpretation of what he did was above board. He (had) an open door policy," she said.
But some of those same regulations could have benefited Tracy Edge's employer, the biggest landowner on the Grand Strand.
"There’s some crossing there, crossing of interests," Heniford said.
Burroughs & Chapin descended from the original land holdings of Franklin Burroughs and Simeon Chapin, a Chicago businessman who arrived in the area in 1912.
The company built high-end neighborhoods, operated golf courses and rented out billboards. Helmed from 1993 to 2007 by CEO Doug Wendel, it garnered huge tax breaks from local governments along the Grand Strand as it erected attractions and housing developments.
Wendel, who declined to comment, had his own history in politics, once serving as chief of staff for former Democratic U.S. Rep. John Jenrette.
Tracy Edge joined the company in the same year as Wendel. He worked on leasing and property management, and "directed all federal and state lobbying efforts and served as a liaison to federal, state, and local regulatory agencies for all company development projects," according to his LinkedIn page.
Over time, Burroughs & Chapin's influence has waned. It faced enormous exposure in the financial crisis when the housing bubble burst a decade ago. Edge left the company in September 2012, during a period when it was shedding staff and executives, though the circumstances of his departure are not publicly known.
A few months later, Waters, the chairman of the company's board, met with Quinn, Attorney General Alan Wilson, and other lawmakers at the Palmetto Club in Columbia.
The lunch meeting was first described by Pascoe in open court as an example of Quinn's sphere of influence, though Pascoe did not name the businessman that Quinn was courting. A spokesman for Wilson's office confirmed that Waters was present for the meeting on Jan. 29, 2013.
Waters' attendance has baffled many people familiar with the leadership of Burroughs & Chapin. Current CEO Jim Apple rarely makes public comments about the company, and several people not authorized to speak on the record said Apple does not have the an appetite for political influence. They also said Waters, who has led the board since 2012, would be unlikely or unable to hire a consulting firm like Quinn's.
Waters declined to comment through a spokesperson.
From late 2004 to 2010, Tracy Edge also held a prominent position on the budget-writing Ways and Means committee in the House: chairman of the subcommittee that determined health care funding, one of the biggest portions of South Carolina's budget.
Edge sponsored one of the first measures requiring medication providers to monitor prescriptions in an attempt to stop drug abusers from doctor shopping and a 2008 budget proviso that ensured medical providers would continue to receive Medicaid payments.
"He got the reason that Medicaid needed to pay South Carolina physicians," said Lynn Bailey, a healthcare economist in Columbia. "If you didn't, they wouldn't participate."
Edge also received political donations from health care groups and "legislator of the year" honors from several health associations. His position fit well with the interests of some of Quinn Sr.'s clients, such as Blue Cross Blue Shield, which processes Medicaid payments, and Palmetto Health.
But Bailey said she didn't see a pattern in Edge's work on the committee that would have specifically benefited those companies.
"I always thought that Tracy was a good representative," Bailey said. "He usually did his homework, (and) he really tried to represent his constituents."
In 2011, Edge was reassigned to the economic development and natural resource subcommittee. But by November of that year, according to Pascoe, Edge told Quinn in an email that he would return to his former subcommittee. In that same email, Edge complained to Quinn about his monthly pay being cut from $3,200 to $2,000, the prosecutor said.
"'Is that a mistake?'" the email read, according to Pascoe. "'I thought getting the (University of South Carolina) deal was good. By the way, I’m back on the health budget committee, which is good for us.'"
Quinn allegedly cut Edge from his payroll altogether after he lost a primary in 2014. Edge has since largely faded from the public eye, returning to the news when he said in April that he had testified before the state grand jury in the corruption probe but was assured he was not a target.
His family also made headlines last month, when his son, Pierce Edge, was pulled onstage at a concert in Columbia to play drums with the Foo Fighters.
The next day, Tracy Edge was indicted.