Is the long-running and hella expensive H. L. Hunley Project going to get caught up in a South Carolina political corruption scandal? Could be:
This week The (Columbia, S.C.) State newspaper reported that the left-leaning University of South Carolina – another Quinn client – had turned over documents to Pascoe’s team of S.C. State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) investigators.
They aren’t the only ones …
According to our sources, documents have also been obtained from Clemson University – a government agency which has been intimately associated with Quinn’s most brazen fleecing of South Carolina taxpayers: The Confederate submarine H.L. Hunley.
Over the past two decades, tens of millions of tax dollars have flowed toward this Confederate submarine – which was raised from the floor of Charleston harbor on August 8, 2000. Millions more have been spent on related Confederate memorabilia – and millions more on a government-run “Restoration Institute” run under the auspices of Clemson University.
Why would South Carolina taxpayers be placed on the hook for such non-core appropriations?
Easy: Because former S.C. lieutenant governor, longtime State Senate president and current College of Charleston leader Glenn McConnell (below) was pushing them. And no one was about to stand up to the man who – at the time – was arguably the most powerful politician in the state.
McConnell – who fancies himself a Confederate general – is a longtime client of Quinn’s political consulting firm, which has benefited considerably from these state appropriations via its “Friends of the Hunley” organization. In fact, McConnell’s alleged efforts to enrich Quinn using Hunley funding was originally exposed during his bid for the College of Charleston presidency – but no one ever followed up on the allegations.
They are most certainly following up now …
According to our sources, Pascoe and his team of investigators are not only poring through various Clemson University “Restoration Institute” documents, they are also investigating the allegation that McConnell conspired with Quinn’s firm to rig the bidding for various Hunley-related contracts.
As far as I can tell, suspicion at this point isn’t directed at the archaeologists, historians, and conservators themselves, the people who’ve actually done the work of investigating and preserving this remarkable artifact; this looks to be conventional political corruption case of the type that more typically involves road construction contracts or real estate development. Still, it’s troubling, and I hate the idea that the good work that’s been done over the last two decades might be tainted by pedestrian graft.
A few years ago, a well-known nautical archaeologist commented that we’re unlikely to see more very large-scale Civil War underwater archaeology projects in the near term, because “Monitor and Hunley broke the bank.” I think he’s (sadly) probably right about that, although the subsequent work on C.S.S. Georgia at Savannah might be an exception to his prediction. If it turns out that McConnell and Quinn were funneling dirty money into the Hunley project, it’s just going to make that situation that much worse.