COLUMBIA — Gov. Nikki Haley vehemently defended herself Monday against allegations that she improperly influenced a decision by an environmental board that will allow dredging at the Savannah port, a day before a Senate committee is expected to examine the situation.
The future vitality of South Carolina ports both in Charleston and Jasper is forefront in her mind, the first-term Republican said at a press conference.
"You don't undercut people in order to beat them; you beat them by winning," Haley said.
She added, "I know we are going to have the strongest ports in the country and we're getting ready for that and the companies that we are recruiting are proof of that."
Haley was requested to testify at Tuesday's meeting, but she declined, saying it stepped on the state's separation of powers statute. Haley and her staff have been meeting with senators and their staff individually to answer questions.
The governor's critics, the most outspoken of whom are Democrats, point toward an Oct. 28 fundraiser in Atlanta, just days before the decision on Nov. 10 by the state Department of Health and Environmental Control board to grant Georgia a controversial water permit. Haley appoints the members of the board.
Haley said she will voluntarily release the list of her campaign donors from that fundraiser ahead of the Jan. 10 deadline to do so.
"No one related to the ports gave," Haley said. "These were people like Motorola and GE, companies that we do business with. There were no ties to the ports."
Haley's campaign aide Marisa Crawford released a list of 11 donors from the event. They are: Microsoft, Mark Burkhalter Realty, Fred Cooper of Cooper Capital, United Healthcare, Sunovion, Allergan and Robert Sheft of a flooring company. The rest of the donors are from McKenna Long and Aldridge, the international law firm that hosted the event. The firm’s Political Action Committee donated as well as lawyers Kathlynn Polvino and Stephen Sorett and Alan Moore, a government relations professional.
Despite Haley's comments, Crawford said that neither GE, nor Motorola contributed at the Oct. 28 fundraiser.
The governor said Georgia met the benchmarks set by South Carolina's environmental policy and won the permit "fair and square."
"It's not that it's a good deal or a bad deal" for South Carolina, Haley said.
She added, "You can't look at the facts of this and not see that this wasn't done on merit. I am very comfortable."
Read more in Tuesday's editions of The Post and Courier.