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As FITS reported exclusively two weeks ago, S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley’s deputy chief of staff for legislative affairs and communications has left her office after just seven-and-a-half months.

Trey Walker, the first member of Haley’s senior staff to step down, is taking a position as a taxpayer-funded lobbyist with the University of South Carolina. Walker was paid $122,775 a year (not counting benefits) under Haley – the second-highest of the inflated salaries the governor doled out shortly after taking office.

He will make $135,000 a year (not counting benefits) in his new role – which means he’s making $31,000 more than the employee he is replacing. The University of South Carolina’s other taxpayer-funded lobbyist – Shirley Mills – makes $114,433 a year (not counting benefits) – although sources tell FITS that there may have been an “adjustment” in her salary in the wake of Walker’s hiring.

Walker had initially hoped to be hired by USC as a contract lobbyist so that he could continue to do political consulting work on the side, but that deal apparently fell through. Walker’s pay day comes two weeks after his old boss – former S.C. Attorney General Henry McMaster – was recently hired along with two other Republican operatives as high-priced contract fundraisers for USC’s flagging law school.

While it was well known in S.C. State House circles that Walker was “out of the loop” in Haley’s office, the governor nonetheless praised him upon his departure as “a talented, loyal and committed guy,” and said that “the University of South Carolina is lucky to have him.”

Wait … what?

Didn’t Haley vigorously oppose taxpayer-funded lobbying as a member of the S.C. House of Representatives (you know, when she wasn’t illegally lobbying on behalf of undisclosed clients herself)?

Oh … and didn’t she single this practice out in her 2011 State of the State address as something that South Carolina could no longer afford?

Of course she did … but that was all obviously just talk.

Speaking of keeping up appearances, Walker sucked up to Haley in an email sent to state lawmakers.

“Today is bittersweet, because serving this Governor has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life and I will forever be her grateful advocate,” Walker wrote legislators.

Ummm … okay.

No word yet on when Haley will name a replacement for Walker, who spent much of his time in the governor’s office sending out Tweets about the University of South Carolina’s athletic programs.

Clearly it’s an “indispensable” position, though …

Pic: Earl Capps