Commission clears South Carolina's top prosecutor of 29 alleged violations of ethics law



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COLUMBIA, South Carolina — The South Carolina Ethics Commission has cleared Attorney General Alan Wilson of allegations he violated state ethics laws, noting in documents released Wednesday that the person who filed the complaint didn't cooperate in the agency's investigation.

Separate orders on the 29 allegations show the commission decided on Christmas Eve that none merited further investigation. All but two alleged South Carolina's top prosecutor took donations above the $3,500-per-election-cycle limit. The complaint filed March 11 also accused Wilson of accepting donations from a lobbyist and failing to disclose the occupations of 162 donors.

Richard Quinn, a campaign spokesman for Wilson, told The Associated Press in March the campaign was working to correct four years' worth of quarterly filings, calling any errors inadvertent.

The documents show Wilson returned $50,000 in over-the-limit donations two days before the commission officially notified him of the complaint. He refunded $200 to a legislator-turned-lobbyist several days earlier. According to the commission, Wilson's campaign had the donors' occupations in its records, which is all state law requires.

By law, a complaint must remain secret until the commission decides whether probable cause exists to proceed. The complaint was filed by Krista Thom of Kansasville, Wisconsin.

Wilson returned a total of $71,350, or 28 donations, in the first quarter of 2014. Eight of those donations, totaling $28,000 and received from a once high-profile Lexington attorney convicted of stealing more than $2 million from his clients, were sent to the Children's Trust.

Only two of those eight donations exceeded the $3,500-per-cycle maximum, but Quinn said Wilson wanted to avoid "any possible appearance of any connection with a lawbreaker."

Fifteen of those donations were over the limit due to a quirk in state law that says donors who max out during a primary must wait a week before giving toward the next election cycle. Wilson was in a primary runoff in June 2010.

On Tuesday, the Ethics Commission released a decision it made last month to pursue allegations that Lt. Gov.-elect Henry McMaster took nearly $70,000 in over-the-limit donations in his unsuccessful bid for governor in 2010. McMaster's lawyer contends that debt retirement is a separate postelection cycle, in which donors can again give up to $3,500, so the complaint should be dismissed.

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