Haley reimburses security costs

COLUMBIA — Gov. Nikki Haley’s campaign has paid back a pair of state agencies for security costs on her fundraising trips, although the total was dramatically less than initially expected.

Haley’s campaign sent a check to the State Law Enforcement Division for more than $4,600 and another to the S.C. Department of Natural Resources for more than $3,100.

The totals are from trips during the Republican governor’s first 18 months in office.

State law forbids the use of taxpayer resources for campaign activity.

In response to a Freedom of Information Act request, SLED in February provided a breakdown of the security costs for Haley’s fundraising journeys through early December that showed the agency had spent more than $16,000.

That total was mostly for agents’ lodging and meals on trips to destinations including California and New York.

Haley took trips to New Orleans in April and Dallas in May, with security for both handled by the Department of Natural Resources.

An agency spokeswoman said in February that the $16,000 did not include the agents’ pay because they are salaried employees required to travel with the governor wherever she goes.

SLED Chief Mark Keel said Wednesday that the total provided by the agency earlier this year represented the total costs for agents on those trips.

Keel said Haley is required to pay back only the cost of security during the fundraisers themselves, not for the rest of the trips when she is handling her gubernatorial duties.

“There was other business that was being conducted during the course of those trips,” Keel said.

The SLED chief, who served on the lieutenant governor’s detail in the 1980s, said the total reimbursement was determined following cost reviews by Haley’s legal staff and SLED.

“The governor’s campaign reimbursed SLED and DNR every dollar that was incurred as a direct result of her fundraising travel,” Haley spokesman Rob Godfrey said. “While she doesn’t love the fact that her job requires security, she was more than happy to reimburse those costs.”

A DNR spokesman did not respond to a request for comment on the Haley campaign’s reimbursement to the agency.

Keel said he began talks with Haley’s campaign about paying agencies for security at fundraisers because he knew that such reimbursements had been the norm for previous governors and lieutenant governors.

Haley’s campaign has said it now plans to reimburse agencies for the costs after the close of each fiscal year on June 30.

Democratic consultant Tyler Jones said Haley’s campaign should be required to reimburse the state for the total security costs for fundraising trips, not just the costs directly associated with events.

“This is an egregious waste of taxpayer money, and Nikki Haley knows it,” he said. “If Gov. Vincent Sheheen (Haley’s 2010 gubernatorial opponent) had done this, she’d be leading a tea party protest on the Statehouse steps as we speak.

“It isn’t fair for her to go on junkets and book tours around the world and expect the taxpayers to pick up even a nickel of the tab.”

House Minority Leader Harry Ott, D-St. Matthews, introduced a bill this year that would have banned elected officials from using taxpayer-funded security for personal travel.

The proposal never picked up momentum.

Reach Stephen Largen at 864-641-8172 and follow him on Twitter @stephenlargen.