Inside Nikki Haley’s SC-7 Endorsement Scandal
GOVERNOR’S DONOR, TOP ECONOMIC AIDE OFFERED CORRUPT BARGAIN TO CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE
As the clock wound down on an extended session of the S.C. General Assembly earlier this week, Gov. Nikki Haley and her allies were frantically trying to get a vote on her administration’s signature government restructuring proposal – a bill that basically reshuffled our state’s existing bureaucratic structure without achieving anything in the way of real savings or enhanced accountability.
In fact, the legislation would have actually grown government.
Nonetheless, Haley was so desperate to have this measure brought up for a vote on the floor of the State Senate that she was apparently willing to give away her endorsement in a congressional race to get it done. As we reported in our exclusive feature “SC-7: Tainted Endorsement?,” a Haley emissary reached out to former S.C. Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer at a key moment during the Senate debate – seeking his assistance in getting State Sen. Jakie Knotts (RINO-Lexington) to drop his objection to the bill.
Bauer – a longtime ally of Knotts – is running against Horry County councilman (and fiscally liberal crony capitalist) Tom Rice in the GOP primary for the Palmetto State’s seventh congressional district. According to polls we’ve seen, the race is very close.
So … who contacted Bauer on the governor’s behalf?
Chad Walldorf, a longtime advisor and donor to Haley who was vice-chairman of her gubernatorial transition team (and later appointed by Haley to serve as chairman of the S.C. Board of Economic Advisors). A wealthy former restaurant owner from Charleston, S.C., Walldorf has been donating and raising tens of thousands of dollars for South Carolina political “reformers” over the last decade. In fact over the last two years he and his wife, Jenna, have donated more than $20,000 directly to Haley.
He’s helped raise tens of thousands more.
At 3:16 p.m. – with less than two hours to go before the State Senate’s 5:00 p.m. adjournment – Walldorf sent the following urgent text message to Bauer.
Andre, I need to talk w/ you asap if possible. Thanks, Chad Walldorf.
Bauer promptly called Walldorf and the two spoke on the phone for five minutes. According to Bauer, it was during this phone conversation that Walldorf offered up the corrupt bargain.
“He said he would keep (Haley) out of the race and I told him that was the wrong way to ask me for help,” Bauer says.
Bauer then told Walldorf that he had “seen Haley’s poll numbers” in the seventh congressional district and that she was more than welcome to endorse his opponent. Ultimately, though, he agreed to at least try and make contact with Knotts.
At 3:43 p.m. – less than a half hour after Walldorf’s initial text – Bauer wrote back to the governor’s emissary saying he “just got through to (Knotts) on Senate floor. He said he had just moved it because of some retirement bill.”
Walldorf wasn’t impressed.
“Will he vote to allow it to have an up or down vote by 5:00 today?” he responded, adding that Knotts was “still working against allowing a vote on it.”
“I will have to call him again,” Bauer wrote back. “It takes a long time to get him on the phone. He is not answering his cell. I am having to call the Senate and get patch(ed) through to the phone room. I will try to call him now.”
“As a South Carolinian who wants a better state government, I really appreciate ur help,” Walldorf texts back. “Thanks much for your time as I know you are very busy with your run-off.”
At this point – 4:12 p.m. – time was of the essence for Haley. In fact moments later, Walldorf texts Bauer again to give him an update – and impress upon him the urgency and seriousness of Knotts’ vote.
“(State Senator) David Thomas just arrived from Greenville so Jake is now the deciding vote – if you get him to allow this bill to come up for a vote you are a hero,” he wrote.
Obviously Knotts wasn’t inclined to play ball. Haley never got her vote, and as a result her restructuring bill went down in flames (good riddance to bad rubbish as far as we’re concerned).
“What a disrespectful display of political gamesmanship towards the people of this state,” Haley said. “Two years of taxpayer dollars and work wasted. Disgraceful.”
Really? Haley twice attempted to cut deals with the status quo on restructuring – and has been doing everything within her power to secure a political victory, not real reform.
“Jake will pass that bill,” Bauer wrote to Walldorf several hours later. “He just needs to be handled a little bit different. My advice would be to find some common ground, work with him just a bit, forget about the personal stuff and get some of her agenda passed. If she would show just a little diplomacy I would help her any way I could.”
Bauer tells Walldorf he has frequently touted cooperation with Haley on the campaign trail and added “I have no ax to grind whatsoever.”
Walldorf never responded to Bauer’s message.
The following afternoon the response was unmistakable: Haley endorsed Rice – except it wasn’t so much an endorsement of Rice as it was a bashing of Bauer.
“I and other members of the Reform Movement watched for years as Andre Bauer sided with the establishment and undercut the conservative agenda,” Haley wrote on her Facebook page. “Now he says he’s a conservative. Where was he when we needed help fighting the Obama stimulus? He was one of its biggest cheerleaders. We don’t need another self-interested career politician in Washington.”
“Thanks I got the message,” Bauer wrote to Walldorf shortly after news of Haley’s endorsement broke. “Have fun next year.”
Walldorf fired back quickly.
“No message from me; I’ve got no axe to grind either and am just trying to get good restructuring legislation passed and thought your help – if successful – would have been a reason for her to consider staying out of the race,” he wrote. “Sorry that didn’t work out but I think you tried and appreciate it.”
Later, Walldorf adds “for what its worth when asked my opinion by the (national Club for Growth), I recommended they not endorse against you,” a reference to Haley’s efforts to get the organization to endorse Rice over Bauer.
To read the Bauer-Walldorf text messages for yourself, click on the links below …
(Click to enlarge)