South Carolina House Speaker Bobby Harrell is the first sitting speaker in recent memory to be indicted. A grand jury handed down a nine-count indictment yesterday that accuses him of spending $1 million in campaign funds to pay credit card debt, the $70,000 salary of a secretary who works at his business, reimbursements for official trips he didn't take, and $94,000 in expenses for his private airplane—as well as $300,000 to himself—the State reports. Harrell, 58, allegedly concealed this activity by fudging entries in his pilot book and lying to officials and the House Ethics Committee, the Greenville News reports. Harrell denies the accusations: "If over the course of four years, I mistakenly wrote down the wrong date on a handful of items, that … can easily be addressed," he says.
A powerful politician in South Carolina, the Republican has been speaker since 2005. Now a barrage of colleagues are calling for his resignation—Gov. Nikki Haley, a fellow House member, the state Democratic Party chairman, and the Democratic nominee for governor. Whether he's required to remains to be seen: Harrell's lawyers point out the charges are only misdemeanors, while one expert tells the State "he has to be suspended from office" since one charge carries a 10-year jail sentence. Harrell's case began 18 months ago when a political group said he used his office for personal gain; he fought the ensuing investigation with a failed lawsuit, WLTX adds. (Read more political corruption stories.)