COLUMBIA - Hours after the chairman of the South Carolina Democratic Party said there were new instances of "unethical activity" by Gov. Nikki Haley, the state ethics commission said one was a typo and the other wasn't a requirement.
Party Chairman Jaime Harrison said Thursday Haley was failing to report full donor information by not listing the occupation of 10 donors in the first quarter contributions report. He said her campaign also did not refund an excess contribution of $3,500; it appeared as if a contributor had donated twice. Contribution amounts are limited to $3,500 per candidate per election cycle.
"This is an ongoing issue with this governor and this administration," Harrison said. "It's time for the ethics commission to get involved again."
But before the end of business Thursday at the South Carolina Ethics Commission, Haley's campaign had already shown proof that the duplicate donation was a typo, according to Cathy Hazelwood, deputy director and general counsel for the ethics commission. Further, no campaign is required to publicly disclose the occupation of donors.
"They just have to have them in their records," Hazelwood said. "There's no requirement that the governor or anyone else list it. That's optional."
Hazelwood added that the ethics commission would look into the occupation of the contributors if someone files a complaint. Harrison said the Democratic Party had not filed a complaint yet and is "looking at all of our options."
"As the ethics commission said today, there are no ethics violations here," said Rob Godfrey, Haley's campaign spokesman. "Today's press conference was nonsense, and nothing more than an attempt by Democrats to distract from the new revelations that Vince Sheheen makes money by getting reduced sentences for violent criminals, including those who victimize law enforcement, woman and children, and violent drug dealers."
The Republican Governor's Association started running an ad earlier this week that attacks Sen. Vincent Sheheen's work as a criminal defense attorney for defending those convicted of domestic violence and other crimes against women. Sheheen, D-Camden, is Haley's Democratic challenger.
Matt Moore, chairman of the South Carolina Republican Party, echoed Godfrey's words outside of the Democratic Party's offices in Columbia, and said every campaign does its best to ensure information is accurate in its reports.
"All this is pure political theater," Moore said. "They've had a bad week. I think the staff here at the Democratic Party got together and said, 'Let's have a press conference. Let's just throw things at the wall and see what sticks.'"
Kristin Sosanie, spokeswoman for the Democratic Party, argued, however, that the problem with not listing the occupation was that either Haley's campaign has the information and is keeping it quiet, or they're in violation of the law.
"It's more of a question of meeting the standard she called for," Sosanie said. "Why is it secretive? What are they hiding?"
Cynthia Roldan can be reached at 708-5891.
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