Friday, November 18, 2011

Top GOP Donor Claims SC Gov. Haley Illegally ‘Exploited Her Public Office For Personal Financial Gain’


By Ian Millhiser/Think Progress

A top Republican donor who helped recruit former Gov. Mark Sanford (R-SC) to run for South Carolina’s top job filed a lawsuit accusing current Gov. Nikki Haley (R) of trading off her former job in the state legislature to earn big corporate paychecks. If the allegations against Haley are true, she may have earned as much as $150,000 from wealthy interest groups eager to enlist a sitting lawmaker as an advocate for their interests.
According to the GOP donor’s lawsuit, Haley failed to disclose $42,500 in secret income she earned from a company called Wilbur Smith Associates, and she failed to recuse herself from a vote that financially benefited Wilbur Smith. Haley also took a $110,000 a year job from a hospital company and then allegedly worked as an illegal lobbyist for the company while she was a sitting lawmaker:
The lawsuit accuses Haley, first elected in 2004 to represent Lexington in the House, of lobbying the state Department of Health and Environment Control on behalf of Lexington Medical, as it sought permission for a new open-heart surgery center. Haley and hospital officials previously have said her job as a fundraiser – a $110,000-a-year job the hospital’s CEO created for her in August 2008 – had nothing to do with the heart center.
But the lawsuit points to an August 2008 email between Haley and her boss.Asked about a meeting on the heart center, she replies, “We have some work to do not only to switch votes but to hold the ones we have. We are as close as we are going to get and can’t afford to leave one stone unturned. … Fingers crossed!”
If these allegations prove true, they are quite serious. There is a clear and serious conflict of interest when a lawmaker is allowed to influence matters that benefit their employer — especially when the lawmaker is allowed to keep many of the details of that arrangement secret.
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