COLUMBIA -- Members of former Gov. Carroll Campbell's staff will be the first witnesses next year when the investigation into a bribery-tainted capital gains tax cut continues, state senators said Thursday.
Former Campbell aides Graham Tew and Whit Ayers and former chief of staff Warren Tompkins will testify at the investigative subcommittee in January, said Sen. Tom Moore, D-Clearwater, the panel's chairman.
Tompkins and Tew originally were to have testified Thursday, but the committee decided it was not prepared to hear them.
U.S. District Judge Falcon Hawkins has suggested federal prosecutors did not fully investigate whether Campbell knew about the payoffs. Hawkins made the comments in February as he dismissed charges against five former lawmakers in the FBI's subsequent Operation Lost Trust vote buying sting, which involved a pari-mutuel betting bill.
Campbell, now an insurance industry lobbyist in Washington, has denied any wrongdoing. None of the witnesses have said the former Republican governor was involved with passage of the 1988 budget provision that gave 40 percent of a $22.4 million retroactive tax break to 21 people.
Moore also defended the subcommittee's decision not to interview lobbyist and FBI informant Ron Cobb yet. The subcommittee received a letter Thursday from Sen. Greg Ryberg, R-Aiken, asking when Cobb would be called.
Then-House Speaker Pro Tem Jack Rogers, D-Bennettsville, admitted taking $10,000 from Cobb to vote for the retroactive rollback. Sen. Jack Lindsay, another Bennettsville Democrat who allegedly took money to put the provision in the state budget, was the target of an investigation but died before any charges were brought.
Political strategist Rod Shealy, who was hired by a Greenville businessman to fight a proposal to repeal part of the tax cut a year later, said Thursday he suspected Cobb bribed Lindsay but never had proof.
"I personally don't have any direct knowledge of bribes," Shealy said.
Moore said the committee planned to talk with Cobb, but first it wants access to the Lost Trust files to cross-check the committee's information against what was said at trial, he said.
The committee wants that "prior to calling persons who were right in the epicenter of this whole matter," Moore said.
A federal judge has not decided whether to give the subcommittee access.