S.C. GOVERNOR’S DAYS COULD BE NUMBERED
While S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley jets across the country promoting herself and her new book, state lawmakers back home are quietly preparing for her eventual fall from grace. And while some maintain that the Republican-controlled S.C. General Assembly won’t summon the testicular fortitude to impeach the Palmetto State’s scandal-scarred, politically impotent chief executive – there are multiple dynamics at play which suggest that Haley’s days as governor could be numbered.
Thanks to Haley’s “transparent” hypocrisy, it’s impossible to say whether the S.C. House of Representatives has launched an investigation into allegations that she illegally lobbied (and failed to disclose income received from a lobbyist principal) while serving as a member of the House.
(The general consensus is that they have).
Thanks to Haley’s incompetence, double-dealing and her mile-wide vindictive streak, though, we know that the S.C. General Assembly will not hesitate to impeach her and remove her from office in the event the allegations turn out to be true … which based on the current evidence seems more like a “when” not ‘if” proposition.
To say that there is “legislative appetite” to impeach Haley is a colossal understatement.
“If there is evidence of malfeasance that rises to a certain level this body will take action,” a ranking Republican told FITS this week, a sentiment that has been echoed by literally dozens of members of the House.
And unlike three years ago with Mark Sanford, this time lawmakers may have the goods – and the guts – to take down a sitting governor.
Because impeachment and removal from office are “extralegal” proceedings requiring only a sufficient number of votes in each chamber, a governor’s relationship with the General Assembly matters. Of course spite alone isn’t enough to prompt the process, or else Sanford would have been turned out of office five years before he “hiked the Appalachian Trail” – on the day he brought a pair of squealing piglets into the State House to protest pork barrel spending.
After cuddling up to lawmakers during her first year in office, Haley has been burning bridges faster than a retreating Nazi on the Eastern Front. In fact she hypocritically bashed the House just last month on tax policy even though her office failed to provide a specific plan for them to pass.
“She has done in one year what it took Mark Sanford eight years to do,” another lawmaker said, referring to the former governor’s toxic relationship with members of the legislative branch. “She has no friends. Not even Nathan (Ballentine) or Ralph (Norman) defend her anymore.”
In fact Haley’s recent sellout of South Carolina’s economic development interests along the Savannah River was unanimously rebuked by both chambers of the legislature.
We reported last week that House Democrats were preparing impeachment documents against Haley, and we’ve been told that discussions among GOP leaders have begun regarding the timing of such a spectacle.
Also, Haley’s tenuous political position was addressed at length last week in a column by Brian Hicks of The (Charleston, S.C.) Post and Courier.
“Many House members believe the committee is looking into charges that she lobbied while she was a legislator — a definite no-no,” Hicks wrote. “Remember, this is the same House that was about to impeach Gov. Mark Sanford for far less-serious offenses. In other words, if they find anything, Haley could be toast.”
Hicks’ column was quickly picked up nationally by Brietbart.
While Haley’s spokesman Rob Godfrey continues to portray the whole episode as nothing but sour grapes on the part of the state’s GOP establishment, there’s a lot more to it than that.
First, the charges against Haley are incredibly serious – and have been backed up with specific evidence. For starters the lawsuit that likely serves as the basis for the House ethics probe 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.
As proof, the suit unearthed an email exchange that Haley’s former employer, Lexington Medical Center, appears to have withheld regarding the former lawmaker’s efforts to secure certification for a new open heart center the hospital was planning on opening.
“We have some work to do not only to switch votes but to hold the ones we have,” Haley wrote to the hospital’s CEO in August of 2008. “We are as close as we are going to get and can’t afford to leave one stone unturned. We were all given assignments and are working on them. Fingers crossed!”
The suit also 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).
In addition to these charges, Haley has also been accused of illegally soliciting contributions from registered lobbyists in her role as a Lexington Medical Center fundraiser – and she’s been independently accused of lobbying on behalf of Wilbur Smith.
Obviously, any one of these charges represents a far more serious allegation than any of the charges leveled against Sanford three years ago in the wake of his “Appalachian Trial” fiasco. We’re also reliably informed that House leaders have been advised of testimony related to one or more of these allegations that will “bury (Haley).”
Every bit as problematic for Haley as the nuts and bolts of the charges against her are the politics of her particular pickle – and we’re not just referring to her abysmal job approval ratings.
In addition to lacking any sort of constituency (Haley’s “Tea Party” movement abandoned her months ago), the governor is especially vulnerable to the persistent “corruption narrative” that Democrats have been pushing over the last fifteen months. Adding another layer of urgency to the mix, GOP House members tell FITS that they are especially sensitive to allegations that their ethics committee is nothing but a “fox guarding the hen house.”
“We know everyone is watching and waiting to see if we treat one of our own the same way we would treat others,” one GOP leader tells FITS, referring to Democrats and the media as “ready to pounce” in the event Haley’s issues are swept under the rug.
Ready to pounce is an understatement. If the GOP gives Haley a hall pass in light of the serious charges against her, they are gift-wrapping the Governor’s Mansion – and maybe more – for Democrats in 2014.
Will they do that?
Based on what we’ve seen, the answer to that question is a definitive “no,” which means that “Teflon Trikki’s” days may be numbered …
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