Influential Republicans turn against Nikki Haley 

Buyer's Remorse

While some members of the Delaware GOP are surely suffering from buyer's remorse following the revelation that their Senate nominee, Christine O'Donnell, once "dabbled in witchcraft" and had a picnic on a bloody altar, some Palmetto State GOP movers and shakers appear to feel the same way about Nikki Haley.

In an op-ed published this week in The State, Cyndi Mosteller, former first vice chair of the SCGOP and former chair of the Charleston County Republican Party, called into question her party's gubernatorial nominee.

Mosteller wrote, "Though running on a platform of transparency and accountability, Mrs. Haley has not paid her taxes by April 15 for the past five years, and has not even filed them by the end of her extension in three of those years — years she served in our General Assembly. And Mrs. Haley's company [Exotica International], where she was the accountant, incurred three liens for withholding and income taxes not paid until 19 months past due. Yet Mrs. Haley continues to campaign on such statements as: 'I know I'm the right person to go into this next position because I'm an accountant, who knows what it means to stretch a dollar.'"

The former Charleston GOP head even questioned Rep. Haley's ability to tell the truth, specifically whether or not the nominee had sexual relations with two other Palmetto State politicos, FITSNews blogger and former Sanford spokesman Will Folks and political consultant Larry Marchant, a former associate of Folks and Haley.

Concerning the affair allegations, Mosteller asked, "Now what do We the People do? We respectfully and resolutely call for transparency. Mr. Folks, Mr. Marchant, and Mrs. Haley should sign by sworn oath to the veracity of their respective public statements. Any additional mechanisms available to them for making the truth transparent should be employed without delay. And others who may have corroborating information one way or the other should have the courage to send it forward now."

The same day as the Mosteller op-ed, The State also published a report noting that John Rainey, chairman of the S.C. Board of Economic Advisors and a member of the Palmetto Institute board, "wrote a letter to U.S. Attorney William Nettles asking him to investigate Haley's consulting work with Wilbur Smith Associates and her hiring by the Lexington Medical Center Foundation."

As you may recall, Haley initially failed to disclose that she had received $42,500 from Wilbur Smith. The State reports that as a fundraiser for Lexington Medical, Haley was paid $110,000. According to the Columbia paper, Rainey claims that "Haley's consulting work may violate federal laws that prohibit public officials from profiting from their office."

Clemson political science professor Dave Woodard, who co-authored Why We Whisper with Jim DeMint and who considers U.S. Rep. Gresham Barrett a personal friend, thinks it's very telling when a GOP stalwart like Rainey and former Charleston GOP chair Mosteller publicly raise questions about Haley.

"I think a lot of the guys that people look to, who are heavy hitters in the Republican Party, just aren't lining up with her or they have questions about her," Woodard says. "This stuff is beginning to stick on her, and what is happening is that people are beginning to have buyer's remorse about her. It's not any one thing. It's the collection of things."

He adds, "They won't go away, and she won't change her tactics for dealing with them."

Woodard himself is a pretty harsh critic of Haley, noting that she has not been forthcoming when it comes to dealing with the Folks and Marchant allegations. In particular, Woodard believes that Haley erred when she reluctantly turned over her legislative e-mails after months of wrangling. And when she did, they only covered a scant few months in 2010. The Folks affair allegedly took place in 2007 and the Marchant one-night stand allegedly occurred in 2008. Woodard, like many others, wants Haley to turn over her office hard drive.

"We could look at all the e-mails [Haley] sent out there in the legislature, not this little doctored list [she] put out," Woodard says.

Of course, Woodard's complaints about Haley go far beyond her reluctance to turn over her hard drive. "She hasn't been forthcoming about her personal finances. She hasn't paid her taxes. What do you want me to say? The case is building up that there are some real problems with Nikki Haley," he says.

A frequent speaker at Republican meetings in the Upstate, the financial and spiritual heart of the SCGOP, Woodard says that Republicans are increasingly raising concerns about Haley. "There are some Nikki Haley defenders that are just blind. And there are some others who come up and say, 'I'm really glad you said something about Nikki Haley. I'm really concerned about her.' And this goes on all the time," the Clemson prof says. "They have not said, 'I'm going to vote for Sheheen.' All that they've said is, 'I'm just real concerned.'"

He also believes that Mosteller's op-ed, and specifically her call for Haley and company to sign statements swearing to the truthfulness of their public comments, speaks of a larger dissatisfaction with Haley. "The very fact that she is calling for [a signed statement] speaks volumes because she's only saying in print what people are thinking in private," Woodard says.

The Mosteller op-ed and the Rainey letter hit the poli-sphere the same time as the latest campaign ad from Haley's Democratic challenger, state Sen. Vincent Sheheen, hit the airwaves. Sheheen's hard-hitting ad notes Haley's previously undisclosed consultant fee, her persistent tax troubles, her close ties to Gov. Mark Sanford, and her plan to increase taxes on groceries. The central message of the ad: Nikki Haley is not who she says she is.

Not surprisingly, the issue of Haley's alleged affairs, does not come up in the ad.

The Haley campaign quickly responded to the Sheheen ad, saying, "While we will never sink into the mud with Vince Sheheen, we think voters are entitled to know exactly where he stands on the most important issues facing our state. Sen. Sheheen would rather make personal attacks on Nikki than tell voters where he stands, but we won't let him get away with that."

Woodard, for one, does not think that Sheheen is engaged in mudslinging. "I don't think he's being unfair," the Why We Whisper author says. "He's talking about her record."

He also says that Sheheen does not have to bring up the affair allegations against Haley. "If he keeps pounding away on her record," Woodard adds, "that'll be enough."

Corey Hutchins, the Columbia Free Times reporter whose year-long investigation into the rumors of an affair between Folks and Haley in part prompted the FITSNews blogger to go public with a confession of an "inappropriate physical relationship" with the GOP nominee, believes that the GOP gubernatorial nominee cannot afford to lose diehard Republicans. "She certainly needs the vote of this traditional Republican establishment to get elected," he says. "I see stickers out there that say, 'Republicans for Sheheen,' but I don't see any stickers that say, 'Democrats for Nikki Haley.'"

Hutchins adds, "Whether the reticence on behalf of the Republican establishment to support and eventually vote for her stems from allegations she had an affair or anything to do with her personal life is hard to say. I don't think the majority of voters in South Carolina who are going to vote for Nikki Haley know that much about her other than she was endorsed by Sarah Palin and that she's the candidate of the Tea Party movement."


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