COLUMBIA — Gov. Nikki Haley singled out the state’s second-in-command leader Thursday — Lt. Gov. Henry McMaster — for striking down an ethics reform bill amendment that would require elected officials to disclose their private sources of income.
Haley posted on social media that she never thought McMaster, who is also a Republican, would help to “kill income disclosures.”
“We have fought for this for four years because people deserve to know who pays their elected officials — including the part time ones, like the legislators and the lieutenant governor,” Haley wrote.
“Income disclosure was killed by (Democratic Sen.) Gerald Malloy and Henry McMaster,” she added. “There is no good excuse for what happened today — and how incredibly sad we are for our state.”
The bill pending before the Senate — in its original form from the House — called for independent investigations by an outside panel to look into lawmaker misdeeds. But Sen. Larry Martin, R-Pickens, made several changes to the bill. While it still included the independent investigations mandate, it had become so reworked to include the private-income disclosure requirement that the new version of the bill was ruled out of order on a technicality.
McMaster, abiding by the rules of the Senate, said he found the changes were not relevant to the original bill.
His ruling came after Malloy, D-Hartsville, raised the objection that not all of the changes in the amendment were pertinent to the original bill, as is required by Senate rules.
McMaster agreed. “Sen. Malloy raised the point of order that Sen. Martin’s amendment in its entirety was not the same subject, but was different from the House bill,” McMaster said.
“All of us, which is a lot of people who favor ethics reform, wanted to pass it,” he said. “But the problem is if the question is raised as to whether it is germane or not, then you have to call that as the law requires.”
Haley’s public outcry came after she made a rare appearance on the second floor of the Statehouse, meeting in the back-room library to lobby McMaster to rule in favor of the amendment. McMaster said the two simply discussed the ethics bill. But those who were in the library at the time say there was heated disagreement between McMaster and Haley.
Martin said he understood Haley’s frustration, but did not fault McMaster for his ruling. He said he’d rather see the Senate rules remain intact, but will instead just push for private income disclosure in a separate bill that specifically addresses the issue.
“It just slows us down and it makes it harder to do,” Martin said. “It’s a setback. But I believe it’s very doable.”
Malloy, who was also attacked by Haley, said “it’s a really sad day in South Carolina when Gov. Haley decides to criticize me for following the rules of the South Carolina Senate.”
“It was not too long ago that the Ethics Committee in the South Carolina House of Representatives whitewashed hearings on Rep. Nikki Haley for her failure to disclose her own income,” Malloy continued. “I find it very funny that she has the time to post on social media when our roads and bridges are falling apart, our schools are not being fully funded, and rural hospitals are closing because of her failed leadership. I respectfully ask Gov. Haley to stop being a hypocrite and step up to the plate to address the serious challenges we face in South Carolina.”
Haley was cleared of wrongdoing by the House’s Ethics Committee in 2012 after facing allegations that she had illegally lobbied for employers while she was a House member. She successfully defended herself before the House Ethics Committee, agreeing with legislators that the laws are too vague.
Four other ethics investigations have rocked the Statehouse in recent times. In 2012, then-Lt. Gov. Ken Ard resigned his post while facing a grand jury indictment for ethics violations. In 2013, then-Charleston Sen. Robert Ford also resigned because of a campaign spending scandal. The next year, former House Speaker Bobby Harrell of Charleston pleaded guilty to improperly using campaign money to reimburse himself for personal expenses.
Most recently, in an investigation that stemmed out of Harrell’s violations, Attorney General Alan Wilson is now in a legal fight with his special prosecutor in the probe, 1st Circuit Solicitor David Pascoe, whom he removed last week after Pascoe attempted to initiate a grand jury investigation. Pascoe has asked the S.C. Supreme Court to determine if Wilson has that ability.
Harrell and Ford were far from alone, however, in finding creative ways to spend campaign cash. “Capitol Gains,” a recent series by The Post and Courier and the Center for Public Integrity, exposed that candidates in South Carolina have what amounts to a personal ATM that dispensed nearly $100 million since 2009.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.