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THE “SAVANNAH RIVER SELLOUT” IS COMPLETE

S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley has accepted a coveted prime time speaking slot at the 2012 Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida this month – bringing full circle one of the biggest (and most damaging) political sellouts South Carolina has ever seen.

Haley is widely suspected to have earned her slot at the convention via the “Savannah River Sellout” – a flagrant betrayal of South Carolina’s economic interests aimed at accommodating the state of Georgia’s taxpayer-funded port expansion plans.

Specifically, Haley is believed to have been offered this coveted slot last November by Alec L. Poitevint, the chairman of the Georgia State Ports Authority and a powerful Republican national committeeman.  In February 2011 Poitevint was named chairman of the 2012 convention’s “Committee on Arrangements” – a role that gave him the power to determine which aspiring GOP politicians receive these coveted speaking slots.

Alec L. Poitevint

As FITS reported exclusively last November, Poitevint was said to have been in negotiations with Haley and her Maryland-based political consultant Jon Lerner regarding the speaking slot.  On the same day our report was published, Haley’s appointees to the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (SCDHEC) reversed their prior environmental objections and granted the state of Georgia a permit to dredge the Savannah River.

Not only that, the deal enables Georgia to dump the toxic sludge from its dredging project onto the Jasper County, S.C. port site that represents the last deepwater port site on the Eastern Seaboard.

Haley’s sellout occurred days after she attended a fundraiser at an Atlanta law firm with extensive ties to the Georgia Ports Authority. Haley claimed at the time that there were “no ties” to Georgia port interests at this fundraiser, although this assertion has been thoroughly rebuffed.

Haley’s sellout makes it much more difficult for the Port of Charleston to regain the competitive ground it has lost to the Port of Savannah over the past eight years.  It also effectively eliminates any chance that a deep water port will be built in Jasper County – which means that taxpayers will be on the hook for the expansion of Georgia’s government-run port rather than benefiting from a the creation of a public-private port in South Carolina.

Additionally South Carolina lawmakers were forced to spend $300 million in the FY 2012-13 budget on Charleston Harbor dredging in an effort to try and keep up with Savannah’s expansion plans.

South Carolina politicians of both parties were furious with Haley over her sellout – and both the S.C. House and State Senate later unanimously rebuked her, as did the S.C. Supreme Court.  Still … there’s not much that can be done to mitigate the damage.

News of Haley’s selection as a GOP speaker was broken in-state by The (Charleston, S.C.) Post and Courier – which has become Haley’s “go-to outlet” in recent weeks.  Amazingly, the paper made no mention of the “Savannah River Sellout.”

Haley has strongly and repeatedly denied receiving financial or political favors from Georgia in exchange for her advocacy on the state’s behalf.  Poitevint has never directly responded to the allegations, although he did do the “wink and nod” routine with a reporter from The Atlanta Journal Constitution not long after his state got what it wanted.

The GOP national convention will be held in Tampa, Florida from August 27-30.  Joining Haley as prime time speakers at the event will be former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez, U.S. Sen. John McCain, former U.S. Secretary of State Condi Rice and Florida Gov. Rick Scott.

Neither Haley, Poitevint, nor SCDHEC was immediately available to comment for this report.

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