Just when it seemed that S.C. Rep. Nikki Haley had successfully put down the various affair allegations made against her during this summer’s tumultuous GOP gubernatorial primary, a “Nixon-esque” release of email information by her campaign on Friday has revived the scandals and raised fresh doubts about her story and her commitment to transparency in government.
Also, Haley’s belated, incomplete and highly-controlled release of select legislative emails – along with her campaign’s insistence that no additional information will be forthcoming – guarantees that Democratic gubernatorial nominee Vincent Sheheen will be able to continue his strategy of labeling Haley as a hypocrite on her one-time signature issue of open government.
Sheheen has been hammering away at Haley over her lack of transparency ever since she invoked a legislative exemption three months ago to shield her taxpayer-funded correspondence from the public. According to The (Columbia, S.C.) State newspaper, Haley referred to this exemption again on Friday in an effort to justify the limited amount of information she finally released.
Just how incomplete was Haley’s disclosure?
First, the GOP gubernatorial nominee only released emails from her “G” drive, which is where most political spam (and constituent email) is sent. She did not release any information from her “L” drive, which is where lawmakers conduct the majority of their electronic correspondence. Second, the emails Haley released on Friday only cover a time period ranging between April and June of this year – making them totally irrelevant to reporters seeking to investigate any of the three affair allegations that have been made against her. More importantly, Haley did not release any information from her state-issued computer hard drives – which keep a permanent record of all sent and received messages, as well as any deleted emails.
Basically, Haley dumped nineteen binders worth of recent political spam on reporters and claimed that she was being transparent.
By contrast, Sheheen released all emails from both his “L” and “G” drives on August 4.
In addition to its incompleteness, the release of Haley’s email information was tightly-controlled by her campaign. Reporters were not provided with copies of the emails, nor were they allowed to take photographs of them. Haley’s campaign also faced questions from reporters – including WIS-TV’s Tim Pulliam – regarding her decision to release these recent, select emails on a Friday afternoon, which is typically when politicians dump bad news.
“I – in all honesty – didn’t think about the news day,” Haley told Pulliam. “I was trying to get these out as fast as we could.”
Not surprisingly, Sheehen’s campaign blasted Haley for her failure to come clean – even comparing her actions to President Richard Nixon’s attempts to bury incriminating information during the Watergate scandal.
“We have heard this story before … remember the missing 18 minutes of the tape?” Sheheen’s campaign manager Trav Robertson said.
“Representative Haley did not release all of her emails today,” Robertson added. “She did not release her L drive emails. The Freedom of Information deadline was August 2nd, but she delayed weeks and many of the emails have been deleted. What did those emails say and why weren’t they released? If Representative Haley really believed in transparency, she would have never have dropped these right before the weekend, which is a classic trick by politicians to hide bad news. What does Representative Haley have to hide?”
Meanwhile, FITS founding editor Will Folks – whose forced admission started this whole soap opera three months ago – issued his own statement to the local media criticizing Haley’s lack of transparency.
“This clearly does not represent a legitimate effort at transparency – but rather a positively Nixonian attempt to fool people into thinking that she is being transparent,” Folks’ statement read. “The truth could have set Nikki free, but this late, incomplete and highly-controlled release of impertinent email information shows that the truth is beginning to work against her.”
Folks has released text messages and phone records to support his claim (and his rationale for coming forward) but he has yet to produce a “smoking gun.” Multiple witnesses have stepped forward, however, to say that they saw Haley and Folks together in bars – as well as Haley’s car parked outside of Folks’ downtown Columbia, S.C. townhouse on numerous occasions late at night during the period when he claims the affair took place. Haley is also said to have confided about the relationship to one of her former staffers.
As for the emails, Folks has said that most of the “romantic correspondence” between himself and Haley – as well as most of their professional interaction – came from her Yahoo account, not her state account.
“Only a few of the emails in my possession came from Rep. Haley’s state account, as she typically chose to correspond with me using her Yahoo account,” Folks said last week.
However, he did say that he recalled having received “several emails from her state account that caused me to think at the time that she should be more careful about what she sent from that account.”
Looks like those emails are long gone now …