Republican gubernatorial candidate Nikki Haley called a commissioner at the

state's workforce agency while she was a sitting lawmaker to ask that an

audit of her family's business be suspended.

Haley's Democratic opponent, Vincent Sheheen, made Haley's request public this afternoon while responding to Haley's campaign statement that unemployed South Carolinians should submit to drug tests in order to collect unemployment benefits.

Haley says she asked for an extension.

Former Employment Security Commissioner Becky Richardson confirmed to The Post and Courier that Haley made the request. Richardson said she couldn't recall all the specifics but said that the audit was indeed suspended, though she doesn't remember for what length of time. Richardson said Haley told her "that it was a real busy time" when she made the request in early 2005. Haley has served in the statehouse since 2004.

Haley said Wednesday afternoon that in early 2005 said she called the customer service line at the workforce agency to find out how to request an extension for the routine audit of her family's business.

She said Richardson called her back.

"It is absolutely ludicrous for them to say I heavy-handed any request," Haley said.

Haley said the matter was routine practice for any small business.

Haley frequently says on the campaign trail that she has managed the books for her family business since she was 13 years old.

Richardson said the audit was a review of financial records to make sure the business was paying its withholding taxes. Haley has been late in paying income taxes and withholding taxes, according to media investigations.

It's unclear if the audit would have uncovered late payments of withholding or if this was from a different period of time.

Richardson said the agency formerly know as the Employment Security Commission does suspend audits when businesses ask, but Richardson added that she couldn't recall the terms under which a suspension typically would be approved. She added she was not exactly sure why Haley called her, but the two had met at the Republican caucus; Richardson is a former lawmaker.

"Yet another example of why South Carolina cannot trust Nikki Haley," Sheheen said.

Haley said that Sheheen was trying to divert attention with his announcement

Earlier Tuesday, Haley had a news conference in Columbia accusing Sheheen of ignoring a clear warning in April 2008 that the unemployment trust fund that pays out benefits to jobless workers was going broke, and fast.

In the months that followed, the trust fund ran out of money and the state has been borrowing millions ever since.

The debt is projected to reach $2 billion before the state can pay it back.

Sheheen said he never ignored the warning. He said that in late 2008 he joined with 18 senators to request an audit of the workforce agency. That audit led to an overhaul that began earlier this year.