Recapping Nikki Haley's self-serving and deceitful first year in office 

Opportunity Knocks

While running for governor of South Carolina in 2010, state Rep. Nikki Haley campaigned against wasteful spending. If elected, she promised fiscal responsibility and personal accountability. Her administration would be transparent, honest, and ethical. She also vowed that she would protect South Carolina's business interests, especially when it came to the state's ports in its competition with Georgia. On Nov. 16, 2010, Gov.-elect Haley told a crowd of a thousand people in Charleston that she was tired of "Georgia having its way with us." This would not happen on her watch, Haley said.

In January, Gov.-elect Haley flew on a Cessna Citation X jet on business to San Diego. The Associated Press later estimated the cost of the flight at $20,000. The Post and Courier, citing a private booking service, said the cost was $35,000. The P&C reported that Haley told the S.C. Ethics Commission the flight was worth $1,400. Ethics Commission Director Herb Hayden told the newspaper that intentionally under-reporting the value of a flight, which amounts to unreported campaign contributions, would violate ethics laws.

Haley became governor on Jan. 12, 2011, nearly a year ago. According to a recent Winthrop University poll, only about 35 percent of South Carolinians approve of the job she is doing. To give her the benefit of the doubt, let's examine her first year in office according to the issues she laid out for voters while campaigning for governor.

What could be fairer?

Jan. 13 The Associated Press reports that Haley will pay her chief of staff, Tim Pearson, $125,000 per year, $27,500 more than Gov. Mark Sanford paid his chief of staff the preceding year.

March 3 Haley appoints a campaign contributor, attorney Tommy Cofield, to the University of South Carolina's Board of Trustees, replacing Darla Moore, the largest benefactor in the school's history.

March 10 Haley establishes the nonpartisan, taxpayer-funded S.C. Health Planning Committee to study how to respond to a federal mandate to implement national healthcare in the state. Haley says the committee will decide "whether or not the state should establish a health insurance exchange," which creates a marketplace where insurance plans are sold.

March 14 According to documents received through a Freedom of Information Act request, The State newspaper reports that Haley's 2008 application for a job as a fundraiser for the Lexington Medical Center listed her previous salary at $125,000 a year, $100,000 more than what she declared on her tax returns.

March 15 Haley tells the Associated Press that she did not fill out the application and said she never earned that much nor told anyone she did. When Haley spokesman Rob Godfrey is asked why she did not fill out the application and if she did not, who did, he had no comment.

March 16 Mark Shelley, the Lexington Medical Center's director of marketing and public relations, tells the P&C that it is "highly unlikely" that anyone other than Haley filled out the application.

March 31 Haley dictates the conclusions of the Health Planning Committee before the committee has had a single meeting, the P&C reports in Dec..

April 21 According to documents obtained through a FOIA request, The State reveals that Haley's office tried to convince news organizations to report that Darla Moore was replaced on the USC board of trustees because she ignored multiple requests to meet with the governor. The documents provide no evidence that Haley tried to contact Moore prior to March 3.

June 2 Haley orders state legislators to Columbia to finish a package of government restructuring bills. She threatens to send state troopers to collect the legislators at a cost of $42,500 a day.

June 6 The state Supreme Court rules that Haley's attempt to order legislators back to work is an "unconstitutional violation of separation of powers."

June 18 Haley and a delegation of 26 go to Paris to recruit business to the state. North Carolina sends seven people. Georgia sends two.

Sept. 5 P&C reporter Renee Dudley writes that the governor's June trip to Paris cost the state an estimated $127,000. The costs include airfare, five-star hotels, cocktails at the Paris Ritz, a $25,000 soiree for foreign business leaders at the Hotel de Talleyrand, and a chalet at the International Paris Air Show. "There is a method to the madness," Haley says. "I am selling the state the only way I know how."

Sept. 8 Haley calls Dudley a "little girl" during a nationally syndicated radio interview with talk radio host Laura Ingraham.

Sept. 8 Haley tells the Lexington Rotary Club that half of the applicants for jobs at the Energy Department's Savannah River Site failed drug tests and half of the remaining applicants couldn't pass reading and writing tests.

Sept. 9 Haley responds to demands that she apologize for calling Dudley a "little girl" by saying, "I'll forgive her bad story, if she'll forgive my poor choice of words." Haley does not explain what she means by Dudley's "bad story" and offers no evidence to contradict the facts of the P&C article.

Sept. 12 The P&C reports that Haley and her staff stayed overnight at luxury beach cottages at Kiawah Island. The staff retreat costs $3,641. By comparison, Gov. Sanford held his staff retreats at his family farm in Beaufort, where they cooked hamburgers on a fire pit and slept in sleeping bags.

Sept. 20 Haley acknowledges she can't support her claim that half of the applicants for jobs at the Energy Department's Savannah River Site failed drug tests and half of the remaining applicants couldn't pass reading and writing tests. She says that she had probably repeated the story "a million times." She defends her comment by saying, "I never felt like I had to back up what people tell me. You assume you're given good information."

Nov. 8 The P&C reports that Haley is in California again to speak to conservative groups, expand her national image, and raise money for her 2014 re-election campaign. The newspaper reports that Haley has flown more than 50 times and has spent a month and a half outside South Carolina since becoming governor. It says the governor has accepted 20 flights from people with potential business with the state, including three who were appointed to important government positions.

Nov. 10 The board that oversees the Department of Health and Environmental Control overrules a staff decision and approves a water quality permit for the Georgia Ports Authority to dredge the Savannah port. The decision is made without public hearings or feedback from political, business, or environmental leaders. Critics charge that Haley and the board, which is comprised of the governor's appointees, betrayed the state's interests by giving Savannah a competitive advantage over Charleston. Haley dismisses bipartisan criticism that DHEC's decision was influenced by a campaign fundraiser she attended in Atlanta with people with a financial interest in the Georgia port. The P&C reports that the fundraiser was held a few days before DHEC's decision.

Nov. 18 The P&C reports that the governor's trip to Europe cost the state $158,000 and not $127,000, as earlier reported.

Nov. 20 The State discovers from a FOIA request that Haley's staff has deleted e-mails between staffers, raising concerns that the deletions may violate state public records laws.

Dec. 8 Lawmakers, business groups, and environmentalists publicly challenge DHEC's decision. "I don't think this issue is going away any time soon," state Rep. Chip Limehouse says.

Dec. 11 A Winthrop University poll reported that 34.6 percent of South Carolinians approve of the job Haley is doing as governor. Her approval rating, according to the poll, is 10 points lower than that of Democratic president Barack Obama.

Dec. 14 According to e-mails released as a result of a FOIA request, the P&C reports that Haley ignored the recommendations of the nonpartisan committee, which met 30 times over seven months and was authorized to implement national healthcare reform. The newspaper reports that the governor's office had failed to turn over a March 31 e-mail revealing that the governor dictated the committee's conclusions before it ever met. Committee members call their efforts a waste of time and taxpayers' money.

Dec. 16 Haley says the committee never considered "a state health exchange." The P&C reports that this contradicts her statement on March 10.

Dec. 16 Haley endorses former GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

Dec. 16 Conservative talk radio host Rush Limbaugh says that Haley put her personal ambitions over her Tea Party supporters by endorsing Romney. Limbaugh criticizes Haley's endorsement as politically motivated. She wants to be vice president, he says.

Chris Lamb is a communications professor at the College of Charleston. His next book, The Sound and Fury of Sarah Palin, will be published in January.


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