COLUMBIA — Gov. Nikki Haley may be using a tea party group she's creating as political cover, tea party activists said Monday.
Haley announced she was forming the Governor's Tea Party Coalition to advise her as she spoke to a Columbia Tea Party gathering Thursday at the Statehouse.
But tea party activists have been complaining lately about Haley's handling of a sales tax collection break for online retailer Amazon.com and her use of federal funds to begin implementing the new national health care law.
'There's a high level of concern that our governor is trying to divert some of the pressure from the grass-roots front on some of her decisions recently and that may be reason she wants to form a tea party advisory board,' said Harry Kibler, founder of RINO Hunt. His group singles out 'Republicans in name only' for not hewing to GOP principles.
Lexington tea party activist Talbert Black said Haley's move could be seen as an effort to neutralize tea party groups' criticism. 'An advisory board can very easily turn into a way for the governor — or any politician — to neutralize the influence we have,' Black said.
Haley spokesman Rob Godfrey said the governor loves the tea party because it's not a political party. The 'coalition she's forming of tea party leaders is an opportunity to get people who haven't been involved before to take a proactive role in bringing good government, pro-business reforms to our state,' Godfrey said.
Haley opposes the Amazon break but says she'll let it become law without her signature. Kibler said that undermined legislators who were opposed to the deal. 'She threw our legislators under the bus when she said if they pass it she wouldn't veto it,' Kibler said.
And Black said Haley really hasn't taken a stand by allowing a bill she opposes to become law. 'It's standing on the fence,' he said.
Tea party activists leery of SC gov's coalition