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 by David Wilkins
Succeeded by Jay Lucas
Member of the South Carolina House of Representatives
from the 114th district
In office
December 8, 1992 – October 23, 2014
Preceded by John C. Rama
Succeeded by Mary Tinkler
Personal details
Born Robert William Harrell, Jr.
(1956-03-07) March 7, 1956 (age 61)
Orangeburg, South Carolina
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Catherine Smith
Alma mater University of South Carolina
Profession insurance agency owner

Robert William "Bobby" 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, also 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. After pleading guilty to multiple ethics violation, State Farm Insurance terminated his contract. He and his wife Cathy opened an independent insurance agency, Harrell Insurance Agency. 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]

Political career[edit]

Promotion of economic development[edit]

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]

Harrell was among South Carolina political leaders credited with playing a key role in incentivizing Boeing to build a 787 Dreamliner assembly plant in North Charleston, S.C.[7]

Election as Speaker of the House[edit]

Harrell ran unopposed as Speaker in 2006 and 2008. In September 2010, Ralph Norman challenged Harrell for Speaker. Harrell was re-elected, defeating Norman who only drew five votes of support – including his own vote – among the 124 House members.[8]

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.[9] The next-largest amount, $30,100, came from health professionals.[9] In 2008, Harrell received $361,053 in contributions. The largest contributing industries were real estate ($29,825), and lawyers and lobbyists ($28,000).[10]

Investigation of campaign contribution misuse and conviction[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.[11] Harrell informed The Post and Courier that all his expenses were legitimate and the reimbursements were less than the fair market value.[12]

Having twice denied to advance a complaint filed by the South Carolina Policy Council, on February 14, 2013 state Attorney General Alan Wilson referred the group's ethics complaint to the South Carolina State Law Enforcement Division for further investigation.[13][14] The same month, the South Carolina State Law Enforcement Division announced a probe into the matter.[15][16] Wilson later returned contributions associated with Harrell after unreported contributions to his own campaign were discovered.[17]

On September 9, a grand jury in Richland County, South Carolina, indicted Harrell on criminal charges of misconduct in office, using campaign funds for personal use and false reporting of candidate campaign disclosures. House Speaker used campaign money to cover goods and services for his home, friends and family. The indictment further said that Perry thus[18] between 2009 and 2012, when in fact he unlawfully paid himself $294,000 in untaxed income and used $70,000 to pay an administrative assistant at his insurance firm. All of these charges were dropped.

Consequently, 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 but can be given weight by a court.[19]

Harrell reached a plea agreement with prosecutors in which he agreed to resign his office and become an informant in other related cases.[20] 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.[21]


  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. ^ He helped bring in Boeing; Big Deal, Charleston Post and Courier, February 15, 2010[dead link]
  8. ^ Harrell re-elected speaker, Charleston Post and Courier, November 17, 2010[dead link]
  9. ^ a b "Bobby Harrell, 2010 Campaign Contributions". Follow The Money (National Institute on Money in State Politics). Retrieved March 8, 2013. 
  10. ^ "Bobby Harrell 2008 Campaign Contributions". Follow The Money (National Institute on Money in State Politics). Retrieved March 8, 2013. 
  11. ^ Dudley, Renee (September 24, 2012). "Harrell offers no details on self-reimbursement of $325,000 from campaign funds". The Post and Courier. Charleston. 
  12. ^ "Harrell's office says speaker reimbursed himself below market value for flights". The Post and Courier. Charleston. October 17, 2012. 
  13. ^ 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. 
  14. ^ Largen, Stephen (March 3, 2013). "Harrell investigation highlights complex Statehouse politics". The Post and Courier. Retrieved March 29, 2013. 
  15. ^ "SLED begins probe of Speaker Bobby Harrell". The Greenville News. February 28, 2013. Retrieved March 12, 2013. [permanent dead link]
  16. ^ Stephen, Largen (March 1, 2013). "SLED launches investigation of House Speaker Bobby Harrell". The Post and Courier. Retrieved March 13, 2013. 
  17. ^ SC Attorney General discovers $134,000 in unreported contributions, expenses, The State Newspaper, March 22, 2013
  18. ^ McLeaod, Harriet. "South Carolina House speaker indicted on ethics and misconduct charges". Reuters. Retrieved 10 September 2014. 
  19. ^ McLeod, Harriet. "Indicted South Carolina House speaker suspends himself from office". Reuters. Retrieved 12 September 2014. 
  20. ^ Self, Jamie. "Post-Harrell, SC House members say they want to see changes". The State. Retrieved 25 September 2014. 
  21. ^ "Disqualified former House speaker ran a close second in District 114 race". Post and Courier. Retrieved 2015-10-09. 

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