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Nikki Haley: Ethics Reform Hypocrite

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When S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley unveiled her ethics reform proposals last August, we had to laugh … after all, her plan proposed doing away with many of the loopholes she has habitually exploited over the years in order to maintain and expand her political power.

“Trusting Nikki Haley with ethics reform is like asking Amy Winehouse to be your Alcoholics Anonymous sponsor. Or hiring Jerry Sandusky to babysit your children. Or appointing Barry Bonds to investigate steroid use in baseball,” we wrote at the time.

That’s not hyperbole …

Haley proposed income disclosure for lawmakers – even though she failed to disclose more than $40,000 she received from a company doing business before the state. She proposed consolidating ethics cases under an independent agency – even though she relied on a corrupt committee of her former peers to evade conviction on a wide range of ethics charges last summer. She pushed for mandatory recusals from office – even though she failed to recuse herself from votes benefiting her secret employer. She demanded reforms to the state’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) – even though her administration has illegally deleted emails and deliberately withheld public information from reporters. And she asked lawmakers to correct a flawed election law that resulted in hundreds of candidates being booted from the 2012 ballot – even though she co-authored the statute with her longtime ally, S.C. Rep. Nathan Ballentine.

“We can’t point to a single one of Haley’s ethics proposals that she hasn’t already either violated or exploited in an effort to cover up her offenses,” we wrote last year.

Indeed.

Sadly, Haley’s hypocrisy has made her a weak advocate for long-overdue ethics reform – which is one reason why the S.C. House of Representatives passed an incredibly watered down bill earlier this year. In fact of all the proposals Haley hypocritically touted, only one – income disclosure – made its way into the woefully inadequate House proposal.

Accordingly, even if “ethics reform” passes this year lawmakers will still reserve the exclusive right to police themselves, they still won’t have to disclose their emails (an exemption Haley famously availed herself of in 2010) and there will be no prohibition (permanent or otherwise) against lawmakers or bureaucrats becoming lobbyists.

Additionally, ethics fines and penalties weren’t substantially raised, the legislative session wasn’t shortened and term limits weren’t imposed on lawmakers … although they did succeed in inserting language aimed at silencing their critics.

The legislation is – as so many other South Carolina statutes before it – “reform in name only.”

Yet with a crusader’s zeal, Haley is demanding that the State Senate pass “her” bill. In fact she’s even attacking the only lawmaker she endorsed in the 2012 GOP primary season for not being sufficiently supportive of the legislation – claiming he’s “with the Democrats” on the issue.

What a joke …

Of course the bigger joke is South Carolina’s mainstream media, which continues permitting Haley to parade around the state as an ethics reform “leader” fighting courageously against a corrupt cadre of “good ol’ boys” in the legislature. The latter assumption is correct – lawmakers are inherently corrupt – but Haley is worse than any of them.

Not just in her many ethical lapses … but because she promised us she was different.

South Carolina is one of the most corrupt, secretive governments in America. Nothing about this bill is going to change that. Accordingly, we call on the State Senate to reject this “reform in name only” and come back with something comprehensive next year. In the meantime, we urge both chambers to pass a standalone income disclosure bill prior to the conclusion of the current legislative session.

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Pic: Travis Bell Photography

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