- Associated Press - Thursday, March 16, 2017

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - State investigators obtained documents showing a temporary infusion of cash from political operatives helped Gov. Henry McMaster get re-elected state Republican Party chairman in 2000, though there’s no indication McMaster himself is under investigation.

Former party treasurer Glen O’Connell confirmed Thursday he gave his 2004 review of GOP finances to State Law Enforcement Division agents about a month ago. Their request came amid a solicitor’s continued investigation into Statehouse corruption. A SLED spokesman declined to comment.

According to documents first reported by The Post and Courier (https://bit.ly/2nGqc2Y ), $60,000 from companies tied to McMaster’s longtime political consultant, Richard Quinn, and $25,000 from another operative enabled McMaster’s supporters to dispute criticism the party was out of money.

On May 4, 2000, the party was in the red by $880, according to O’Connell’s review.

A day later, thanks to the operatives’ infusion and smaller donations, the balance climbed to nearly $103,000 - a sum the party’s then-treasurer John Camp touted in a letter to executive committee members and supplied to news outlets.

“Please don’t be misled by the last-minute attacks that are being made against Henry McMaster concerning party finances and fundraising,” then-House Majority Leader Rick Quinn, the elder Quinn’s son, wrote to GOP delegates who would be choosing between McMaster and Katon Dawson as chairman.

His email included an article citing the $102,893 balance as proof. Camp also cited the article in a letter to delegates.

Days later, the $85,000 was wired back to the Quinns and the Anderson Group. McMaster was subsequently re-elected at the state convention.

O’Connell, who became party treasurer after Dawson won the job in 2002, concluded in his report that “the cash balances and financial records were manipulated and then exploited for the purpose of re-electing Chairman McMaster.”

But even it suggests nothing illegal occurred. The deposits went into the party’s operations account, he wrote, “which is unregulated and doesn’t require public disclosure.”

McMaster said in a statement Thursday that the race for an unpaid party position happened 17 years ago.

The U.S. attorney under President Ronald Reagan went on to be twice elected attorney general and elected lieutenant governor in 2014. He ascended to the governor’s office in January when Nikki Haley was made U.N. ambassador.

“I’m confident everything done by staff and supporters was above board and legal,” he said.

Former party director J. Sam Daniels said the deposits were always meant to be short-term loans for operations.

Paying for that year’s hotly contested presidential primary between George Bush and John McCain - which Bush won - and defending in court Democrats’ lawsuit attempting to stop it put the party in a cash crunch, Daniels said.

At that time, parties - not the state - were responsible for their presidential primaries.

“It took a lot more expense than we’d budgeted for,” Daniels said. “So I went to and asked the Andersons and Quinns, ‘Hey, can you all help us out here? These are the things I’ve got to get paid.’ And they said yes.”

As for the letters citing the $103,000, he said, that was that day’s balance.

He contends McMaster would have won regardless after a very successful presidential primary that put South Carolina in the national spotlight. And McMaster had the backing of most state Republican officeholders.

“There was a lot of momentum for Henry,” he said. “He’d already proven he’s successful.”

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