Haley, witnesses say governor did nothing improper
COLUMBIA — In an unexpected twist, Gov. Nikki Haley appeared at an ethics hearing Thursday night to personally tell state lawmakers that she did not break the law.
“I just want the truth out there,” she said of the investigation of whether she illegally lobbied while a state legislator. “I want to tell you the truth because I know I’ve done nothing wrong.”
Haley’s testimony to the S.C. House Ethics Committee followed that of nine witnesses — a collection of Statehouse lobbyists, a former state agency official and representatives from a pair of her pre-gubernatorial employers — who testified that they knew of no wrongdoing by the governor while she was a House member.
Haley was not subpoenaed by the committee and was not expected to appear at the hearing before she was called to the stand by one of her attorneys.
Gregory Harris, a former chairman of the State Ethics Commission, testified after Haley that in his judgment, Haley did not violate state ethics law.
Harris said he had been paid by the firm of one of Haley’s private attorneys to testify.
Ethics Committee Chairman Roland Smith, R-Warrenville, described the payment as “concerning.”
Haley has been accused by GOP activist John Rainey of illegally lobbying, failing to disclose conflicts and exploiting her office while she was a state representative from Lexington County from 2005-10.
During that time Haley worked as a consultant for Midlands engineering firm Wilbur Smith Associates and as a fundraiser for the Lexington Medical Center Foundation.
Rainey was subpoenaed in the case at the request of Haley’s attorneys but was never called to testify after sitting in a sequestered witness room for 12 hours.
An attorney for Rainey called Thursday’s hearing a “farce” and said attorneys hired by the committee to present Rainey’s allegations didn’t adequately press witnesses when said they couldn’t recall information.
During her testimony, Haley accused Rainey of harboring a political vendetta.
“Mr. Rainey is a racist, sexist bigot who has tried everything in his power to hurt me and my family,” Haley said.
Haley has claimed that on the gubernatorial campaign trail, Rainey asked her to prove she was not a terrorist. The governor is Indian-American.
Rainey attorney Christopher Kenney, who works for the law firm of S.C. Democratic Party Chairman Dick Harpootlian, said Rainey had no comment on Haley’s attack.
But he said the then-state representative wrote Rainey a handwritten thank-you note just days after the alleged remark occurred.
The committee will meet this morning to deliberate behind closed doors before publicly announcing its ruling on the allegations.
The House Ethics Committee is investigating the allegations because it is tasked with ruling on complaints against current and former House members.
The committee had never before investigated a South Carolina governor until taking up the Haley complaint this year.
Reach Stephen Largen at 864-641-8172 and follow him on Twitter @stephenlargen.