This website has relentlessly exposed S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley’s chronic hypocrisy on “ethics reform” (and “transparency in government“), but even we were unprepared for the governor’s latest “efforts” on these fronts.

Seems Haley – who has been criticized in the past for her many ethical lapses – is looking to fit the state’s top watchdog agency for a muzzle.

According to reporter Jeremy Borden of The (Charleston, S.C.) Post and Courier , the chairman of the S.C. State Ethics Commission (SCSEC) – James Burns – has “temporarily restricted the panel’s communications with reporters.”

Burns – a powerful attorney at Nelson Mullins law firm – was appointed by Haley to lead the commission last year.

Burns’ gag order is widely perceived as retribution against SCSEC attorney Cathy Hazelwood for speaking out publicly about Haley’s ethical problems in the past.

Last August, for example, FITS exclusively reported that Haley had been involved in a June 2013 car crash in North Carolina (an accident which was never disclosed). It was later revealed the governor was in North Carolina to attend a political gathering at which she received nearly $40,000 in campaign cash.

In other words there was no state business being conducted – but plenty of political business.

The day after the story broke, we noted that Haley – who has been caught illegally using taxpayer resources for political purposes in the past – was in clear violation of a state law banning taxpayer resources from being expended on political activity.

“The real story isn’t the fact the governor was in a car crash,” we wrote. “The real story is that South Carolina taxpayers subsidized her travel (and the travel of two of her campaign aides) to an overtly political event where she engaged in campaign fundraising.”


Hazelwood agreed with us – but was then promptly overruled by her superiors.

Now Haley’s commissioners have muzzled Hazelwood completely – forcing reporters to get their information directly from the SCSEC executive director (or not at all).

“I’m a very strong advocate for being open, being transparent,” Burns told the Post and Courier .

Right … aside from muzzling your employees for having the audacity to do their jobs.

Burns’ gag order is deplorable.  And according to prominent open government attorney Jay Bender, it’s illegal.

South Carolina already ranks dead last in the nation in open government – and just last week its Supreme Court dealt the state’s weak transparency laws another blow.  Do we really want to make this state even less transparent?  Especially after Haley got elected on “transparency” in 2010?

Apparently so …