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COMMITTEE WILL CALL WITNESSES, HEAR TESTIMONY

Less than a month after dismissing the charges against S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley on a technicality, members of the S.C. House Ethics Committee voted unanimously on Wednesday to reopen their investigation.

By a 6-0 vote, committee members voted to formally reopen their probe of the first-term Republican. They also agreed to hold hearings and call witnesses to testify – including GOP fundraiser John Rainey, whose complaint against Haley initiated this soap opera.

Haley herself might even be called to testify – although it’s not yet clear whether she would submit to such an examination (the one-time transparency champion previously refused to testify before a S.C. Senate panel that was investigating her flagrant betrayal of our state’s economic and environmental interests).

Best of all? Thanks to a rules change that passed the S.C. House earlier this year, all of these once-secretive hearings will be conducted in public.

Rainey’s compliant against Haley – originally filed in circuit court last November – alleges that Haley committed multiple abuses of power during her six years as a member of the S.C. House of Representatives. It has already produced at least one “smoking gun” related to the allegation that Haley illegally lobbied on behalf of Lexington Medical Center, her former employer. Haley has also been accused of illegally lobbying on behalf of Wilbur Smith Associates – an engineering firm with extensive business before the state – and failing to report $42,500 in income received from the company between 2007-09.

(To read Rainey’s complaint in its entirety, click here).

Prior to the vote, Haley’s attorney Butch Bowers told the committee that it lacked the authority to reopen the investigation. Bowers also told the committee that there was no evidence that Haley had illegally lobbied on behalf of either Lexington Medical Center and Wilbur Smith Associates.

In a bit of a surprise, an effort to move the Haley probe to S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson’s office failed. According to our sources, the case is expected to wind up in Wilson’s lap at some point – but lawmakers believe that a finding of fact must be made by lawmakers prior to referring the case to Wilson for possible criminal prosecution.

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