Friday, April 8, 2011

Rainey: "Intoxication of power has overwhelmed Nikki Haley"

Anderson attorney John Rainey has a unique perspective on South Carolina: In 2001, he recruited former Congressman Mark Sanford of Sullivan's Island to run for governor. When Sanford was elected, Rainey accepted the governor's appointment to chair the state's Board of Economic Advisors, which seeks to guide lawmakers' decisions on the budget and economic decisions. Throughout Sanford's numerous missteps -- including the implosion of his personal life in 2008 -- Rainey stuck by him. But when Rep. Nikki Haley won election to the governor's office last year, Rainey saw the handwriting on the wall -- their economic philosophies are contradictory in that Rainey has one -- and he left the Board of Economic Advisors before he could be fired from it.

It turned out that his expectation of being replaced wasn't unfounded, as Haley demonstrated last month when she unceremonious dumped another longtime public servant -- financier Darla Moore -- from the University of South Carolina Board of Trustees.

That move -- and others, like being photographed attending to her iPad during a speech by President Barack Obama in the East Room of the White House -- has earned Haley national media attention. Bloomberg News Service has just published its own critique of our new governor and her early choices, and its reporters sought Rainey's input, which he happily gave.

“Darla Moore is a game changer and game changers don’t come along very often,” said John Rainey, a lawyer in Anderson and a Palmetto director. A Republican who led the state’s economic development board for eight years, Rainey said Haley showed arrogance in removing the university benefactor, in a telephone interview last month.

“The intoxication of power has overwhelmed Nikki Haley probably quicker than anyone I know,” said Rainey, who is financing a review of Haley’s work history.

Bloomberg focused much of its attention on the decision to remove Moore and noted that in an interview, Haley referred to Moore as just a "big pocketbook."

Darla Moore, a financier who had donated $70 million to the University of South Carolina, was taken off the board by Haley. She was replaced by Thomas Cofield, a lawyer who gave $4,500 to Haley’s campaign for governor, state records show.

“We are changing the way we fund higher ed, and I needed someone I could count on to fight for me,” Haley, 39, said in an interview. As for Moore, “a big pocketbook doesn’t need to be on the governing board because all of a sudden, the big pocketbook becomes the only voting member,” the governor said.

The report suggested that Haley has a history of forcing things to go her way, even in her personal life.

When she met her future husband at Clemson University, he went by Bill. She got him to start using his middle name, Michael, as he didn’t fit her image of a Bill. Now she’s Mrs. Michael Haley.

But the Moore decision -- and its aftermath -- illustrates something significant and yet undefined about Haley's character.

Haley said she replaced Moore, 56, a trustee since 1999, to make the board more responsive to her. By then, Moore had become the most-generous financial supporter of the university in its history.

Moore, an executive vice president at Rainwater Inc., the private investment company started by her husband, billionaire Richard Rainwater, declined to comment on the governor. She said that her commitment to the state and the university is unfazed.

“I’ve been working in this arena for 12 years,” Moore said in a telephone interview. She is a 1975 graduate of the university and a former Chase Bank managing director.

On March 24, after Haley had removed her as a trustee, Moore pledged another $5 million for the school to help set up an aerospace research institute. In a speech before hundreds of students in Columbia, she spoke about the board, improving educational opportunities in the state and leadership.

“Neither you nor I need to be on the board of trustees to make this happen,” Moore said. “We need simply to hold our leaders accountable and tell them we understand that they may not help us, they may not be able to help us -- but we demand that they not hurt us.”
Matching Funds

Moore, a South Carolina native, asked the state to match the amount for the aerospace center.

Haley opposed making the allocation in the state budget, and the House left it out of the spending plan it passed last month.

Which leaves us to wonder what could be Haley's message to South Carolina's students? And what will be her next move, and will it help or hurt an already battered and bruised state?

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