Friday, July 15, 2011

Haley flew to New York fundraiser after issuing school funding vetoes

Intrepid reporters at The State newspaper have uncovered part of Governor Nikki Haley's itinerary in New York City, no thanks to Haley's office help. "Haley left Columbia the evening of June 29, according to her spokesman, on a flight paid for by the Republican Governors Association," the newspaper announced this week.

To get to this scrap of information, reporters discovered donations totaling $32,000 made to Haley's campaign account on June 29, 34 donations coming from out-of-state donors and six coming from South Carolinians.

June 29 was a big day, the day that lawmakers voted to override a majority of Haley's vetoes and restore millions of dollars to public schools and SCETV, among others. It was curious that Haley wasn't present to twist arms, and that her man Godfrey issued such a terse, brief statement when the overriding was done.

According to financial reports released Sunday, Haley raised nearly $49,000 in contributions from individuals and organizations during the second quarter, which ended June 30. The majority of that money came from out-of-state donors, including attorneys, company executives and homemakers who attended the New York event.

Democratic lawmakers criticized Haley for heading out of town to raise money as they took up her budget vetoes. That day, lawmakers voted to override 26 of Haley’s 35 vetoes.

State Rep. Leon Stavrinakis, D-Charleston, said Monday that Haley may have been playing politics instead of fighting for her reforms.

“It raises the issue whether she had any intention of (her vetoes) being successful,” Stavrinakis said. “Why issue those vetoes and abandon town if you really thought they were needed changes and you were willing to fight for them?”

Stavrinakis also criticized Haley for trying to call lawmakers back into session in early June to vote on four bills but leaving town during the mid-June legislative special session. “That was wrong, and it displays a level of judgment that is certainly questionable,” he said.

Hey, that's a great point. When lawmakers left town without meeting her expectations by the end of the last day of session, she issued an ill-fated executive order calling them back to Columbia.

So, with work on the budget left undone on June 29, should Haley have flown the coop for a glitzy fundraiser in Manhattan?

Haley on Monday defended her decision to attend the fundraiser, saying it had been planned long in advance, before she knew the Legislature would be in special session. She said it was the only fundraiser she held in the quarter, adding that she did not hold any during the regular legislative session.

“That fundraiser was planned for months, and we went ahead and we did it,” Haley said.

Mm. But the legislature's sine die had been planned for months, too -- everyone knows the legislature ends its regular session on the first Thursday or June, so it's easy to predict today what date sine die will be adopted for the next ten, twenty, fifty years -- yet Haley demanded that lawmakers ignore their sine die resolution and come back immediately to pass her agenda. Shouldn't the goose live by the expectations she sets for the ganders?

Then there's this little bobtail that Haley added onto her defense of the trip:

“It wasn’t during (my) regular day schedule. It wasn’t on the state dime, and it was a private event.”

Haley left Columbia the evening of June 29, according to her spokesman, on a flight paid for by the Republican Governors Association. The following day, Haley attended Republican Governors Association events in New York. She then spent Friday and the weekend with her husband and children on a family vacation before returning to South Carolina.

It's interesting that the governor said the expenses for the trip were not "on the state dime."

When I first mentioned this in an earlier post, I posed questions that have gone unanswered, to wit:

But when the governor travels outside the state, a security detail is dispatched to travel with her. Did one travel with her to New York? If so, did her security return when her "business" was finished on Thursday night, or did security go sightseeing in New York with her?

So, did any SLED agents participate in Governor Haley's Excellent Adventure in New York? If so, how many, and were they paid by South Carolina's taxpayers? Did they stay in hotels; and if so, which hotels? Did they take their meals in little brown bags from Columbia, or did they eat food in New York's eateries; and if so, where? Were these hotel and meal expenses paid for by the Republican Governors Association, or by the taxpayers of South Carolina?

The difference is more than semantic. We have a right to expect our governor to tell all the truth. When she says that her outing to New York, which even her man Godfrey acknowledges included "Friday and the weekend with her husband and children on a family vacation before returning to South Carolina," was not "on the state dime," then we should know that it's a totally true statement, a partially true statement, or an untrue statement.

Gina Smith, of The State newspaper, can you help answer these questions? Is this a question that State Treasurer Curtis Loftis could answer?

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