COLUMBIA — The Sikh Religious Society where Gov. Nikki Haley’s parents are leaders is suing the blogger behind an anonymously-sourced report on the temple’s finances and Haley’s rumored involvement in an ongoing Internal Revenue Service investigation.
The Post and Courier is attempting to obtain a copy of the lawsuit, but Richland County’s online court index lists the case type as assault/slander/libel and Palmetto Public Record editor Logan Smith and two John Does as defendants.
The religious society is being represented by Butch Bowers and Kevin Hall, the same Columbia attorneys who represent Haley.
The governor’s office has said Smith’s reporting was incorrect and provided a copy of an IRS letter to back its claims. In an initial, late-March post, Smith wrote of speculation that the IRS probe’s target “has run anywhere from delinquent taxes to money laundering and tax fraud, with varying accounts of the governor’s own involvement in the temple’s shady finances.”
According to a March 31, 2011, letter the IRS sent to the Chapin-based religious society that Smith first posted, the IRS sought a range of records from the nonprofit organization, including charitable receipts, bank statements and correspondence sent to contributors and copies of various tax forms for calendar years 2007-09.
Another post by Smith a day later stated a possible looming indictment of Haley was linked to her alleged connection to the religious society’s financial affairs.
Two days after the initial report, the governor’s office released a copy of a letter sent to the religious society in late September or early October, 2011 — according to an estimate by an IRS official — that said the IRS determined an examination was not warranted for the tax year that ended Dec. 31, 2009.
The governor’s spokesman said the letter represented the closure of the IRS inquiry that Smith posted initial documents about.
Haley also slammed the way mainstream media outlets handled Smith’s report.
“It’s incredibly frustrating when unaccountable bloggers will take money to smear trash about somebody, and the mainstream media will pick it up and run with it,” Haley said the day her office released the letter.
Smith and the religious society’s attorneys could not immediately be reached for comment.
Read more in tomorrow’s Post and Courier. Reach Stephen Largen at 864-641-8172 and follow him on Twitter @stephenlargen.