- Associated Press - Monday, March 17, 2014

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - The campaign for South Carolina’s top prosecutor is working to correct four years’ worth of quarterly filings after questions from The Associated Press.

Since Sunday, Attorney General Alan Wilson’s campaign has filed new reports for every quarterly disclosure since January 2010. The amendments come days after the AP asked the campaign about contributions that appeared to exceed the limit of $3,500 per election cycle or appeared to be unreported.

Wilson campaign spokesman Richard Quinn Sr. said Monday most of the technical changes were unrelated to the AP’s specific questions.

“Our folks have been working diligently for weeks to get the disclosures as perfect and error-free as possible before the next filing deadline,” he wrote in a response.

State Ethics Commission attorney Cathy Hazelwood said Friday the agency was reviewing Wilson’s filings for potential over-the-limit donations. The agency had sent no notice yet to the campaign. State law sets no deadline for self-corrections and no limit on amendments, Hazelwood said.

As attorney general, Wilson’s job includes prosecuting criminal violations of ethics law.

Earlier this month, his campaign returned $200 to a lobbyist who donated to his successful 2010 bid, after notification from the Ethics Commission. State law bars legislators and statewide officers from accepting money from lobbyists. Her donations were first reported by the Charleston Free Times. Quinn said the campaign didn’t realize the donor was a lobbyist.

Quinn told the AP then that the campaign also was correcting filings related to a legal firm’s donations, so it didn’t appear it gave the maximum contribution twice in the same cycle. One of the $3,500 donations from Hall & Bowers should have been applied to Wilson’s 2010 debt, he said.

State law allows a donor to apply a contribution to a candidate’s debt from a previous election cycle, as long as the debt payment doesn’t exceed the donor’s limit for that cycle and it’s clearly marked in quarterly disclosures.

That brought questions about other donations.

Quinn said the campaign has already refunded two companies whose contributions last fall put them over the limit for the upcoming election. Those refunds to Lorilland and Cash America - in January and February respectively - should be reflected in the first-quarter filing, due next month.

Four donations appeared over the limit because the online filing gave the day they were deposited in the bank, which seemed to put them at the beginning of a cycle, rather than when the checks were written a week or two earlier. Other technical errors were explained as a misspelling and an online glitch.

The campaign refunded one of JM Family Enterprises’ $3,500 donations from this cycle in January 2013.

“We are doing our best to make all of the attorney general’s disclosures over the past four years absolutely error-free,” Quinn said.

Last March, Wilson’s campaign corrected his filings after a review by an independent accountant found $134,000 in previously unreported donations and expenses surrounding his 2010 win. His campaign chairman attributed the 68 donations and 16 payments to human error.

As of Friday, nine of those donations, all received online, still hadn’t been reported. The campaign last year amended filings to show the credit card processing fees paid for those nine, but not the donations themselves. Those were among the campaign’s fixes Monday.

The amendments by Wilson’s campaign come amid his investigation into House Speaker Bobby Harrell, R-Charleston.

That investigation is also what sparked the campaign’s internal review last year. Days after Wilson forwarded an ethics complaint to the State Law Enforcement Division, he said he would return money to Harrell. However, while Harrell’s online filings listed the donation, Wilson’s did not.

In January, a month after receiving SLED’s report, Wilson announced he’d sent Harrell’s case to the state grand jury. Harrell, speaker since 2005, maintains he’s done nothing wrong.

Other ethics cases before Wilson include allegations against former Sen. Robert Ford, D-Charleston, whose resignation last year removed the possibility that his colleagues would expel him. The Senate Ethics Committee then found Ford committed multiple violations and forwarded all supporting documents to Wilson. Ford’s lawyer, William Runyon, has said Ford committed inadvertent errors due to his horrible bookkeeping skills.

Wilson’s investigations into former GOP Lt. Gov. Ken Ard resulted in Ard’s resignation and guilty plea in 2012 to misdemeanor ethics violations. That came nine months after Ard paid a $48,000 fine to the state Ethics Commission. The charges stemmed from a 2010 campaign scheme that inflated Ard’s support. Wilson said he gave $75,000 of his own money to people who then gave it back to him as individual contributions, then tried to unlawfully reimburse himself by buying personal items such as a flat-screen TV with money from his campaign account.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

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