SLED releases its investigative report on former South Carolina House Speaker Bobby Harrell

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COLUMBIA, South Carolina — The State Law Enforcement Division released a heavily-redacted version of its report on former House Speaker Bobby Harrell on Tuesday, offering details into prosecutors' case against the once-powerful politician.

SLED provided reporters with copies of the report one month after the 11-term House veteran pleaded guilty to six misdemeanor campaign spending violations and resigned.

It's the investigative report SLED turned over to Attorney General Alan Wilson last December. Eleven of the 42 pages are either completely or mostly blacked out. SLED cited a provision in the public records law that exempts releasing information to be used in a future or likely law enforcement action.

As part of his plea deal, the 58-year-old Charleston Republican agreed to help in any other investigations into wrongdoing involving the Legislature or other matters. Speaker since 2005, Harrell was among the state's most powerful politicians.

Details in the report include that Harrell told investigators it was a legitimate campaign expense to fly his airplane to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, for a high school baseball tournament in 2009. Those on the flight included the coach's wife and two players' siblings. Harrell called it a "see and be seen trip with my constituents."

Neither Harrell nor his attorney immediately returned messages seeking comment.

According to the report, Harrell also:

—Factored in fixed costs — such as property taxes, insurance and depreciation — when reimbursing himself for flying his Cirrus SR22 to events. Therefore, the hourly rate of $615 he set for himself was much higher than the actual cost of fuel, oil and other direct costs. The report notes the "fixed operating costs of an aircraft exist for an owner whether the aircraft is being flown or not." Harrell, a pilot, said he selected a rate that was lower than the cost of leasing a local plane by the hour. Nothing in state law addresses reimbursements for personal plane use.

—Reimbursed himself nearly $70,300 for the salary of his insurance office's administrative assistant. Harrell said the Charleston office assistant spent 70 percent of her time on his campaign and House-related business, so he used campaign donations to pay for 60 percent of her salary.

—Reimbursed himself for a trip to Orlando, Florida, in June 2010. He told investigators he went to meet with film company executives about the state's film incentives. The only documentation he provided was an invitation to the opening of the Wizarding World of Harry Pottery at Universal Studios.

—Reimbursed himself twice for $1,800 in expenses to the National Speaker's Conference in Georgia in 2009, from both his campaign account and the state.

—Double reimbursed himself for lodging, food and travel while in Columbia, by getting his normal per diem and mileage from the state as well as taking money from his campaign account.

—Withdrew between $500 and $1,400 in cash from his account on six occasions, explained as office expenses. State law bars the withdrawal of more than $100 in campaign cash at a time.

—Paid a computer company nearly $23,000 for wireless access services linking his Charleston, home and Columbia offices. Invoices from the company specify that work included setting up and fixing his family's various computers.

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