Ethics member: Send Haley complaint to AG

Nikki Haley

COLUMBIA — A member of the state House Ethics Committee who voted to dismiss a complaint against Gov. Nikki Haley now wants to reopen it and send it to the S.C. Attorney General’s Office for review.

Rep. Joan Brady, R-Columbia, said there are too many “political factors” entering into the committee’s handling of the complaint against Haley, which alleges she illegally lobbied and exploited her office while a House member.

Brady also said the committee, which is considering whether to reopen the complaint, is not equipped to deal with criminal allegations.

“For the integrity of the committee, and the integrity of the governor, I think we need to just put this issue to rest,” she said.

A Democratic lawmaker who has asked the committee to reconsider the complaint called Brady’s position “baloney,” saying the committee should handle the job itself.

Brady said she stands by the committee’s earlier 5-1 decision along partisan lines to dismiss the allegations against Haley, but additional filings by Haley’s office and the complaint’s source, GOP fundraiser John Rainey, have made the process “more complicated and more involved.”

“We don’t have criminal investigators, we don’t have criminal attorneys,” she said.

Brady drew fire from her Democratic challenger earlier this month after missing the committee’s last meeting, where members began weighing a resolution from Rep. James Smith, D-Columbia, that would reopen the complaint.

The committee is scheduled to meet this afternoon.

Brady said she plans to make a motion to reconsider the complaint. She also wants to ask the group to send the complaint to the Attorney General’s Office for a later meeting in order to give committee members more time to look at the additional information from Haley and Rainey.

The committee’s lone Democratic member, Rep. Laurie Slade Funderburk of Camden, said she will make a separate motion that the committee issue subpoenas to various people to appear at a public hearing on the complaint.

In response to a request from the committee, Haley’s office last week provided sworn affidavits from Haley’s pre-gubernatorial employers saying she never lobbied for them, along with pay stubs and other records.

Rainey likewise filed another round of documents with the committee reasserting his allegations.

Haley’s office has repeatedly said Rainey’s accusations are false, and points out that he’s been represented on the allegations against Haley by the law firm of S.C. Democratic Party Chairman Dick Harpootlian.

Haley has accused House Speaker Bobby Harrell of Charleston of meddling in the Ethics Committee’s handling of the complaint, a charge Harrell has denied.

“Through all these silly political machinations in this process, there has been one — and only one — constant: there has been absolutely zero merit to any of the claims against the governor,” Haley spokesman Rob Godfrey said Tuesday .

At its meeting today, the committee could vote on the resolution by Smith seeking to reopen the complaint, in addition to the planned motions.

Smith said the committee has the power and duty to investigate the complaint itself, and shouldn’t pass the buck to Attorney General Alan Wilson’s office.

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