Haley or Ard: Who will be the first to do the perp walk? 

Nikki and Ken

How much longer can Nikki Haley's luck hold out? Not only did she come out of nowhere to become governor in 2010, she did it despite having two men with sworn affidavits claiming to have had extramarital affairs with her. And she did it despite serious questions about her personal finances, her employment record, and her personal veracity.

Once elected, she continued to stumble. First, she removed Darla Moore from the University of South Carolina Board of Trustees. Moore is the greatest benefactor in the history of USC, having donated tens of millions of dollars of personal wealth to the institution. Haley replaced Moore with one of her campaign contributors.

Now, she is being called onto the carpet by Democrats and some in the media over the way she left Columbia for a trip to New York last month. The timing was particularly awkward. A few weeks earlier she had insisted that the General Assembly stay in Columbia to finish its budget and other business. But on June 29, she left town to attend the Republican Governor's Association meeting. The Legislature was still in session dealing with her budget vetoes, and there was certainly an appearance that she was setting one standard for the Legislature and another for herself.

Last week, media outlets reported that she was doing more than hobnobbing with the GOPer guvs and spending personal time with her family, as her staff reported. She attended a fundraiser where she picked up $32,000, mostly from out-of-state donors, for her re-election campaign.

Haley did nothing illegal by removing Moore from the USC board or failing to disclose her hidden agenda in leaving Columbia for the Big Apple while the General Assembly was still in session. But it does raise questions as to her judgment and priorities.

In a recent story in The Nation, Columbia Free Times reporter and City Paper contributor Corey Hutchins raised far more troubling questions.

"I believe she is the most corrupt person to occupy the governor's mansion since Reconstruction," John Rainey, a longtime Republican fundraiser and power broker, told Hutchins. "I do not know of any person who ran for governor in my lifetime with as many charges against him or her as she has had that went unanswered."

Among other things, Hutchins cited Haley's record of appointing cronies, fundraisers, and political supporters to key state positions, including the director of her Board of Economic Advisors. She also created a highly paid new position for the wife of her highly paid chief of staff, Tim Pearson. She has also taken on a dollar-a-year staffer, Christian Soura, whose primary salary comes from a right-wing think tank, the S.C. Center for Transforming Government. While Soura has access to state government, the think tank does not have to disclose anything about its finances.

Hutchins rehashes stories of her questionable consulting job while she served as a legislator, as well as her late IRS filings. "More curious," Hutchins writes, "in 2006 Haley and her husband, Michael, claimed only $40,269 in combined income. This was while the couple was paying a $289,000 mortgage, driving a luxury SUV, and raising two children."

Here is my question? What if Nikki Haley suddenly found herself under state or federal criminal investigation or indictment? Is Lt. Gov. Ken Ard ready to step up and assume the office of governor?

Recent revelations about Ard suggest not. He may be too busy talking to his own lawyers.

Since the November election, a flood of reports have shown how truly stupid and irresponsible this former Florence County councilman is. I use the words "stupid" and "irresponsible" because his defenders say he is too honest to be the weasel he seems to be.

After the election, Ard went on a spending spree, tapping into unspent campaign donations to buy a $3,000 flat-screen TV, iPads, a PlayStation, tickets to the SEC championship game in Atlanta (where he watched Auburn throttle the Gamecocks), and a family vacation. Perhaps even worse, when investigators started asking questions about his behavior, he apparently lied — twice — about his motives and other details. The State Ethics Commission has hit him with $48,400 in fines and ordered him to reimburse the commission $12,500 for the investigation.

All of this comes less than two years after former Gov. Mark Sanford humiliated himself with an Argentine mistress and got hit with more than $70,000 in Ethics Commission fines for various misdeeds.

My last question is this: Why do the people of South Carolina keep embarrassing themselves and the state by electing such people to high office? I think it has something to do with the sense of entitlement that many GOPers attach to holding public office. Whatever the reason, I predict that we are in for another round of bashing by the late night comics. Jon Stewart must love us.


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