GOVERNOR’S TOP STAFFER, FORMER CABINET LIAISON BUSTED IN GOP PRIMARY PLOT
Two-and-a-half months ago S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley was still enjoying a chummy relationship with S.C. House Speaker Bobby Harrell and other members of the “Republican” leadership in Columbia, S.C.
Obviously Haley was in the process of writing a book that would later cut their asses, but for the most part she was still playing nice with state lawmakers in an effort to get several items on her watered-down “reform” agenda passed during her second year in office.
One exception to the chumminess? State Sen. Hugh Leatherman – the powerful S.C. Senate Finance Committee chairman (and the fiscally liberal politician with whom Haley struck a corrupt bargain during her first year in office on the issue of government restructuring). Having had her unholy alliance with Leatherman exposed by Tea Party leaders the previous year, Haley had no choice but to abandon Leatherman – which is something you just don’t do to the state’s “Godfather of Pork.”
Seriously … fight the devil (as we have chosen to do) or join him – you can’t do both.
Anyway, shortly after Haley decided to renege on her “deal with the devil,” the governor’s top cabinet liaison Taylor Hall departed her administration to take a job with her reelection campaign – or at least that’s what we were told at the time.
Turns out the 24-year-old Hall – one of several youthful Haley staffers singled out for their inexperience and astronomical salaries – was actually hired on the down low by the S.C. Republican Party. In fact, the deal – which was so far below the radar that several SCGOP staffers weren’t even aware of it – was agreed upon by Haley, Harrell and other top Republican staffers and basically presented to SCGOP Chairman Chad Connelly as a fait accompli.
“All the legislative leaders agreed to it,” our source says, indicating that the move was made as “a gesture of goodwill to Haley.”
Two months later, however … the arrangement has completely unraveled.
On April 15, Hall was let go by the SCGOP after he was caught working with Haley’s chief of staff Tim Pearson to recruit candidates to run against GOP incumbents in both the State Senate and S.C. House of Representatives. Specifically, Hall and Pearson were caught recruiting individuals to run against Leatherman and former House Majority Leader Jimmy Merrill.
We won’t fault them on either choice, obviously – and there are some (including us) who would argue that the SCGOP probably should be engaging in that sort of behavior.
The only problem? Pearson and Hall’s operation was deliberately kept hidden from the party leaders paying Hall’s salary – and also from the legislative leaders who authorized Hall’s hiring.
Not only that, the operation appears to have been focused only on lawmakers with whom Haley has had personal differences in the past – meaning it was devoid of any ideological component whatsoever. For example, an unknown number of fiscal liberals like S.C. Sen. Larry Martin – who has carried Haley’s legislative water in the past – were actually singled out for protection, not extinction.
Ironically, Pearson and Hall’s efforts would have likely continued had they not been betrayed by Haley supporters – including one individual whom the governor appointed to a prominent post in her administration.
Amazing, isn’t it? The governor’s own appointees have even turned on her …
Anyway, Hall refused to answer questions about his work for the party – and Pearson did not respond to our request for comment. SCGOP executive director Matt Moore said only that “we do not comment on personnel matters.”
Moore also refused to confirm whether Connelly fired Hall or gave him the opportunity to resign from his post, although we’re told that Connelly acted decisively once his internal investigation confirmed that Hall and Pearson were recruiting candidates against GOP incumbents.
“Unlike Nikki, Chad has ideological beliefs,” one source familiar with the drama tells FITS. “But his job is to lead the party and he did not hesitate to do his job.”
Speaking of jobs … Pearson is paid $125,000 a year (not counting benefits) to run Haley’s administration. How does he have time for this sort of nonsense? He doesn’t … which probably explains why Haley’s executive branch continues to be one disaster after another.