Bobby Harrell

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Bobby Harrell
59th Speaker of the South Carolina House of Representatives
In office
June 21, 2005 – October 23, 2014
Preceded byDavid Wilkins
Succeeded byJay Lucas
Member of the South Carolina House of Representatives
from the 114th district
In office
December 8, 1992 – October 23, 2014
Preceded byJohn C. Rama
Succeeded byMary Tinkler
Personal details
Robert William Harrell, Jr.

(1956-03-07) March 7, 1956 (age 62)
Orangeburg, South Carolina
Political partyRepublican
Spouse(s)Catherine Smith
Alma materUniversity of South Carolina
Professioninsurance agency owner

Robert William Harrell, Jr. (born March 7, 1956) is an American politician and member of the Republican Party who served as a member of the South Carolina House of Representatives, representing the 114th District, from 1992 to 2014, serving as the Speaker of the House from 2005 to 2014.[1]

Early political career[edit]

Harrell was the chairman of his Freshman Caucus in 1993.[1] Two years after Harrell was elected, he was appointed to serve on the Ways and Means Committee in 1994.[citation needed] Later, he was elected to serve as Majority Leader from 1997–1999 when he became the Ways and Means Committee Chairman in 1999. He has also served as Chairman of the Economic Development and the Public Education Subcommittee of the Ways and Means Committee.[1] In South Carolina, State Legislators serve as part-time employees making only $10,400/year.[2]

Business career[edit]

Harrell earned his Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from the University of South Carolina.[1] He opened an insurance agency representing State Farm Insurance in 1980. In 2010, after his father died, Harrell combined his agency with that of his father in Harrell Square, a shopping center owned by the family. He and his wife Cathy opened an independent insurance agency, Harrell Insurance Agency in 2014. They now represent over 100 companies such as Progressive, Liberty Mutual, Travelers and many more.[3] He previously owned Palmetto State Pharmaceuticals, a pharmaceutical repackaging company that he sold in 2012.[4]

The Harrells hold several pieces of investment real estate in Charleston and Columbia, SC.

Political career[edit]

Promotion of economic development[edit]

Harrell is credited with negotiating the deal on behalf of the House that brought Boeing to Charleston to build the 787 Dreamliner. He was also instrumental in bringing Southwest and JetBlue as carriers to the Charleston Airport.

In 2008, Harrell, legislative leaders and business executives formed the Knowledge Sector Council. In an effort to support South Carolina’s growing knowledge-based economy, the public/private Council was created to encourage research universities, economic development entities, private businesses and state agencies to work together in expanding jobs and economic opportunity.[5]

In 2010, Harrell sponsored the S.C. Economic Development Competitiveness Act.[6]

Election as Speaker of the House[edit]

Harrell ran unopposed as Speaker in 2006 and 2008, and 2012. In 2010, Harrell had a token opponent for Speaker when Ralph Norman challenged Harrell for the Speaker’s office. Harrell was re-elected, defeating Norman who only drew five votes of support – including his own vote – among the 124 House members.[7]

Political contributions[edit]

In 2010, Harrell received the largest amount of political contributions – $47,425, or nearly 22 percent – from lawyers and lobbyists, according to the National Institute on Money in State Politics.[8] The next-largest amount, $30,100, came from health professionals.[8] In 2008, Harrell received $361,053 in contributions. The largest contributing industries were real estate ($29,825), and lawyers and lobbyists ($28,000).[9]

Investigation of campaign contributions[edit]

In September 2012, The Post and Courier reported that Harrell had reimbursed himself more than $325,000 from his campaign war chest since 2008 but had produced no receipts or itemized invoices accounting for the spending.[10] Harrell informed The Post and Courier that all his expenses were legitimate and the reimbursements were less than the fair market value.[11]

About a week later, Harrell provided receipts to an Associated Press reporter who reported that she had seen them, and that they were in order.

Having twice denied to advance a complaint filed by the South Carolina Policy Council, on February 14, 2013 state Attorney General Alan Wilson gave in to the pressure from this political group and referred the group's ethics complaint to the South Carolina State Law Enforcement Division for further investigation.[12][13] The same month, the South Carolina State Law Enforcement Division announced a probe into the matter.[14][15]

Wilson later claimed that he returned contributions associated with Harrell after unreported contributions to his own campaign were discovered.[16] These alleged repayments by the AG were never received by Harrell. That money is still in the campaign account of the AG

On September 9, a grand jury in Richland County, South Carolina, charged Harrell with misdemeanor charges of misconduct in office, using campaign funds for personal use and false reporting of candidate campaign disclosures. Later, most of these charges were dropped.

On September 11, the House Speaker suspended himself from the state legislature. South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson stated that state law and legislative rules barred Harrell from suspending himself because the action implied he had the power to reinstate himself later. Opinions by an attorney general are not legally binding, and this opinion had no impact on Harrell’s decision.

Harrell reached an agreement regarding only the use of a private airplane, that was mostly used for political speeches and fundraising events for other house members.

All other charge were dropped. He agreed to leave office, pay a fine and not seek elective office for 3 years.[17] He still appeared on the ballot in the 2014 elections. Democratic nominee Mary Tinkler won the seat but Harrell still carried Dorchester County even with signs in the polling place stating that he had withdrawn from the election.[18]


  1. ^ a b c d "Robert W. Harrell, Jr". South Carolina Legislature Online. Retrieved March 12, 2013.
  2. ^ "Legislative Salaries Per State". Empire Center. Retrieved March 8, 2013.
  3. ^ "Charleston Auto, Home & Business Insurance - Bobby Harrell - Harrell Insurance Agency". Retrieved 2015-10-09.
  4. ^ "Bobby Harrell and Hugh Leatherman biographies". The State Newspaper. Retrieved March 7, 2010.
  5. ^ O'Connor, John (July 30, 2008). "GOP leaders target job hunt" (PDF). South Carolina Senate Republican Caucus. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-10-05.
  6. ^ "Session 118 (2009–2010) – South Carolina Economic Development Competitiveness Act of 2010". South Carolina Legislature Online. Retrieved March 8, 2013.
  7. ^ Harrell re-elected speaker, Charleston Post and Courier, November 17, 2010[dead link]
  8. ^ a b "Bobby Harrell, 2010 Campaign Contributions". Follow The Money (National Institute on Money in State Politics). Retrieved March 8, 2013.
  9. ^ "Bobby Harrell 2008 Campaign Contributions". Follow The Money (National Institute on Money in State Politics). Retrieved March 8, 2013.
  10. ^ Dudley, Renee (September 24, 2012). "Harrell offers no details on self-reimbursement of $325,000 from campaign funds". The Post and Courier. Charleston.
  11. ^ "Harrell's office says speaker reimbursed himself below market value for flights". The Post and Courier. Charleston. October 17, 2012.
  12. ^ Shain, Andrew (February 19, 2013). "SC attorney general returns contributions from embattled House speaker". The State. Archived from the original on February 22, 2013. Retrieved February 20, 2013.
  13. ^ Largen, Stephen (March 3, 2013). "Harrell investigation highlights complex Statehouse politics". The Post and Courier. Retrieved March 29, 2013.
  14. ^ "SLED begins probe of Speaker Bobby Harrell". The Greenville News. February 28, 2013. Retrieved March 12, 2013.[permanent dead link]
  15. ^ Stephen, Largen (March 1, 2013). "SLED launches investigation of House Speaker Bobby Harrell". The Post and Courier. Retrieved March 13, 2013.
  16. ^ SC Attorney General discovers $134,000 in unreported contributions, expenses, The State Newspaper, March 22, 2013
  17. ^ Self, Jamie. "Post-Harrell, SC House members say they want to see changes". The State. Retrieved 25 September 2014.
  18. ^ "Disqualified former House speaker ran a close second in District 114 race". Post and Courier. Retrieved 2015-10-09.

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