Six More Past or Present Legislators Implicated in Pay-for-Votes Scheme
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) _ Five more legislators and a former representative who is now a judge have been implicated in a Statehouse scandal in which three of five lawmakers previously indicted have pleaded guilty to selling their votes.
U.S. Attorney Bart Daniel filed court papers Monday that said the six conspired to obtain money for their votes on a bill that would legalize dog and horse racing. The bill was never put to a final vote.
None of the six has been charged, although they have acknowledged being questioned by the FBI in connection with the 16-month investigation.
All six are black. Some blacks, including Democratic gubernatorial nominee Theo Mitchell, have questioned why so many blacks have been implicated.
″Certainly it’s a disproportionate number of black legislators that were targeted,″ he said last month. Nineteen of the Legislature’s 170 members are black. Four of the five lawmakers indicted in August are white.
The U.S. attorney has strongly denied any racial motivation.
During the investigation, FBI agents videotaped lawmakers taking cash from lobbyist Ron Cobb, a former House member working undercover for the FBI.
Named as conspirators Monday were: Democratic Reps. Larry Blanding of Sumter, James Faber of Eastover, Ennis Fant of Greenville, B.J. Gordon of Kingstree, and Frank McBride of Columbia. Also named was Circuit Judge Tee Ferguson, a former Democratic House member from Spartanburg. He was suspended from hearing cases.
Also Monday, former Sen. Rick Lee, a Republican from Boiling Springs, pleaded guilty to a bribery charge. Last week, former Reps. Robert Brown, D- Marion, and Danny Winstead, R-Charleston, entered similar pleas.
No sentencing date has been set.
Lee faces up to 20 years in prison, as do Brown and Robert Kohn, a Republican from Charleston who has pleaded innocent. Winstead faces 30 years.
The fifth lawmaker indicted last month, Luther Taylor, a Democrat from Columbia, faces 120 years.
The filings Monday came in response to a request by Taylor’s attorney that prosecutors list the unidentified conspirators referred to in the indictment against him.
In the papers, Daniel also said Taylor took $2,800 from Cobb in 1988 and 1989 for voting to uphold a $2.8 million computer contract won by National Advance System with Clemson University. The final payment of $300 was filmed by the FBI, the papers said.
Daniel said Taylor is on videotape saying that payment of legislators has been business-as-usual for years. Taylor has not been charged in the computer case, but Daniel argued that evidence about the case should be admitted in court.