S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley is dismissing it as “sour grapes,” but Republican donor John Rainey’s lawsuit against her includes three incredibly serious charges – any one of which could lead to serious problems for the first-term governor.
Rainey’s lawsuit boils down to three basic allegations …
First – and most seriously – Rainey’s suit alleges that Haley illegally lobbied the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (SCDHEC) while still a member of the S.C. General Assembly. In fact, he may have a smoking gun on this particular point – an email exchange with her superior in which Haley refers to being part of an effort to “switch votes” related to the approval of the hospital’s new heart center.
That email was not included by the hospital in its responses to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests filed by Rainey.
Beyond the email, the suit alleges that Haley “attended meetings with (hospital) lobbyists, attorneys and executives to strategize how to win approval for the heart center from DHEC, a public agency.”
Lexington Medical Center has denied that Haley ever lobbied on its behalf.
Second, Rainey’s suit alleges that Haley broke the law when she failed to report $42,500 in income received from a company with business before the state – and that she failed to recuse herself from a vote that provided financial benefit to that employer, Wilbur Smith Associates.
(Bolstering Haley’s case is the fact that Haley did recuse herself from a separate vote involving Wilbur Smith, although she did not explain the nature of her conflict in doing so).
“Instead of following the law, Haley cast a vote that authorized the Department of Agriculture to make payments to her secret employer, Wilbur Smith and Associates,” the lawsuit states.
Third, Rainey’s suit alleges that Haley illegally sought contributions from registered lobbyists in her role as a Lexington Medical Center fundraiser.
“Haley’s solicitation of lobbyists occurred at the Statehouse, while the House was in session,” the lawsuit notes. “But for Haley’s public office as a member of the House, (Lexington Medical Center Foundation) would not have received thousands of dollars from lobbyists and lobbyist principals.”
State law is very clear on the issues raised in Rainey’s lawsuit.
“No public official, public member, or public employee may knowingly use his official office, membership, or employment to obtain an economic interest for himself, a member of his immediate family, an individual with whom he is associated, or a business with which he is associated,” the law states.