HICKS COLUMN: Haley may go from honeymoon to legal separation
One day soon, Gov. Nikki Haley may regret flying around the state to bash members of the S.C. House of Representatives.
Because now her fate — her entire political career — is in the hands of a bunch of folks not inclined to cut her any slack.
The relationship has gotten so bad that Republicans and Democrats concede they are whispering about the possibility of impeachment.
Although they won’t talk about it on the record, you can hear legislators around the Statehouse talking informally about offing the governor, politically speaking. Even if it is premature.
“Right now, the ball is in the court of the Ethics Committee,’ says state Rep. Chip Limehouse. “The House will take appropriate action based on the findings.”
The latest focus of these parlor games is John Rainey’s ethics complaint.
Last month a judge dismissed a case against Haley filed by Rainey, the former chairman of the state Board of Economic Advisors and a major GOP player. The judge didn’t rule on the merits of the case, but said the proper venue for the case would be an ethics panel.
Now, because the governor refuses to waive her right to confidentiality, the House Ethics Committee can’t confirm that it is investigating her. But many House members believe the committee is looking into charges that she lobbied while she was a legislator — a definite no-no.
Remember, this is the same House that was about to impeach Gov. Mark Sanford for far less-serious offenses.
In other words, if they find anything, Haley could be toast.
Rainey claims that Haley voted at least once in favor of something to benefit an engineering firm that does business with the state.
Haley, at the time, was a paid consultant for the company.
Also, Haley was a fundraiser for the Lexington Medical Center, and Rainey has an email that suggests she was corralling votes to get the hospital a new heart center. One note includes a line from Haley that says, “We have some work to do not only to switch votes but hold the ones we have … Fingers crossed!”
Haley spokesman Rob Godfrey says this is baloney. To be fair, this is coming up in the midst of the governor’s national book tour, which comes to Charleston on Monday.
“John Rainey is an embittered man with a political vendetta. He has already wasted the time of the courts. He can try to waste the time of the General Assembly. He will not waste any of the governor’s time,” Godfrey says. “If there is an ethics complaint about matters that took place years ago — and that have already been answered again and again — the regular procedures should be followed, and we’re confident that the Ethics Committee will come to the same conclusion as every other entity that Mr. Rainey has shopped this nonsense to — that it is entirely baseless.”
Yes, Haley denied wrongdoing, but she never really explained the meaning of that email.
Regardless, those House guys seem motivated to sort it out. And if Haley really did lobby members of the House, you’d think most of them would be happy to testify.
Seeing as how most of them don’t like the governor.
When Glenn McConnell had to step down as Senate president pro tempore to take over as lieutenant governor, many assumed Haley was ecstatic to see a political enemy lose some power.
Funny, that day may have sealed her fate.
Many lawmakers believe there is no one more qualified to be governor of South Carolina than McConnell, so any qualms they would have had about making former Lt. Gov. Ken Ard the Big Cheese are out the window.
Actually, McConnell’s move to the front of the succession line is working like an accelerant to all this talk. They want him to be governor.
It’s worth noting that the state operates a little differently than Washington. If the House votes to impeach Haley, she would be suspended from office pending a trial in the Senate, and McConnell would take over immediately.
Now, House members say they won’t trump up charges or do anything petty that could come back on them. But if they decide Haley did wrong, many Republicans say this isn’t just talk — they won’t hesitate to impeach her.
All they need is a good reason.
Reach Brian Hicks at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter at @BriHicks_PandC.