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Attorney General Wilson’s campaign correcting filings

COLUMBIA (AP) — The campaign for South Carolina’s top prosecutor is working to correct nearly four years’ worth of quarterly filings following questions from The Associated Press.

Since Sunday, Attorney General Alan Wilson’s campaign has filed more than 15 new reports for quarterly disclosures dating to October 2010. The amendments come days after the AP asked the campaign about contributions that appeared to exceed the limit of $3,500 per election cycle, as well as unreported donations.

Wilson spokesman Richard Quinn Sr. has said the campaign seeks to vigilantly comply with ethics laws. He was working Monday on a response.

State Ethics Commission attorney Cathy Hazelwood said Friday the agency was reviewing Wilson’s filings for potential over-the-limit donations. The agency had sent no notice yet to the campaign. State law sets no deadline for self-corrections and no limit on amendments, Hazelwood said.

As attorney general, Wilson’s job includes prosecuting criminal violations of ethics law.

Many of Wilson’s latest amendments appear to be technical.

Earlier this month, his campaign returned $200 to a lobbyist who donated to his successful 2010 bid, following notification from the Ethics Commission. State law bars legislators and statewide officers from accepting money from lobbyists. Quinn said the campaign didn’t realize the donor was a lobbyist.

Quinn said then the campaign was also correcting filings so it didn’t appear a legal firm gave the maximum contribution twice in the same cycle. One of the $3,500 donations from Hall & Bowers should have been applied to Wilson’s 2010 debt, he said.

That brought questions about other donations.

State law allows a donor to apply a contribution to a candidate’s debt from a previous election cycle, as long as the debt payment doesn’t exceed the donor’s limit for that cycle and it’s clearly marked in quarterly disclosures. Contributions from at least two donors can’t be fixed with such an explanation because their donations were made after Wilson had paid off his 2010 loans.

Wilson paid off his loans Jan. 27, 2011, according to his filings. Texas-based CashAmerica gave $2,500 in November 2012 and $2,000 last September. Lorillard, a tobacco company based in North Carolina, gave $2,000 in June 2012 and $3,000 last October, according to filings.

The campaign appears to have incorrectly attributed two donations from Florida-based JM Family Enterprises to 2010 debt — $3,500 in December 2011 and $3,500 in June 2012. The ethics commission says donations can’t be applied to non-existent debt, once it’s already paid.

Last March, Wilson’s campaign corrected his filings after a review by an independent accountant found $134,000 in previously unreported donations and expenses surrounding his 2010 win. His campaign chairman attributed the 68 donations and 16 payments to human error. As of Friday, 11 of those donations still hadn’t been reported. Those were among the campaign’s fixes Monday.

The amendments by Wilson’s campaign come amid his investigation into House Speaker Bobby Harrell.

In January, Wilson announced he’d sent ethics allegations against the fellow Republican to a grand jury, a month after receiving a report from the State Law Enforcement Division. Harrell, speaker since 2005, maintains he’s done nothing wrong and said the announcement’s timing, the day before the legislative session started, appeared to be aimed at hurting him politically.

Wilson’s investigations into former GOP Lt. Gov. Ken Ard resulted in Ard’s resignation and guilty plea in 2012 to misdemeanor ethics violations. That came nine months after Ard paid a $48,000 fine to the state Ethics Commission.

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