The SC State Ethics Commission will review Gov. Nikki Haleys campaign finances to determine if the Republican from Lexington violated state ethics rules.
If so, Haley most likely will face a fine of up to $14,000.
Commissioners considered the allegations brought last July by Bridget Tripp, the outreach coordinator for the SC Democratic Party at their March 21 meeting, finding probable cause exists to support the alleged violation.
The commission will hold a hearing July 18 on the allegations. (Read the complaint)
The allegations are twofold:
• Failure to maintain a record of the occupations of each of Haleys campaign contributors. The occupations of more than 100 Haley donors are not listed on her disclosures. Collectively, those donors gave more than $1 million to Haleys campaign. Ethics law does not require campaigns to disclose donors occupations but they must maintain a list.
• Failure to disclose the addresses of six contributors. Four of those six missing addresses have been located, according to Haleys fundraiser, Marisa Crawford.
We were unable to find the addresses for two of them, donations totaling $326.78, Crawford said in an email. Weve worked with the State Ethics Commission, and we have agreed to treat those contributions as anonymous and transfer those contributions to the Childrens Trust Fund.
State ethics law says anonymous donations, which are illegal, must be given to the Childrens Trust Fund, a nonprofit.
Tripp did not comment on her complaint Tuesday.
Dick Harpootlian, chairman of the S.C. Democratic Party, said Haley needs to provide the missing information to prove the reported donors exist.
Are these real people? Are these straw men? It bears scrutiny, Harpootlian said. She (Haley) is the one who touts herself as an accountant who can keep the books. At the very least, shes done a terribly sloppy job at bookkeeping. Or it could be something more nefarious.
Harpootlian noted another state Democratic Party staffer filed the original ethics complaint against former Lt. Gov. Ken Ard. Ultimately, that case was referred to the state Attorney Generals Office, and the Republican resigned his post and entered a guilty plea to campaign law violations.
The Ethics Commission can assess a fine of up to $14,000 against Haley, publicly reprimand her or make other arrangements, said Cathy Hazelwood, attorney for the commission. Each of the seven alleged violations could result in a fine up to $2,000.
Its also possible the case could be resolved before Julys hearing, said Butch Bowers, Haleys attorney.
Haley could agree to a consent order and avoid a hearing, Hazelwood confirmed Tuesday. For instance, Haley could agree to pay a certain fine, agree to make another attempt to gather the missing addresses, return the donations or make other reparations, according to the Ethics Commission.
This marks the second ethics inquiry into Haleys activities.
Last month, a Richland County Circuit Court judge threw out a lawsuit making more serious charges against Haley, including alleging she illegally lobbied for two employers while a member of the S.C. House. The judge said circuit court was the wrong place to investigate those allegations.
Haley repeatedly has denied the allegations.
Now, members of the House Ethics Committee are expected to take up that complaint. However, that panel meets in secret, behind closed doors, making it impossible for the public to know what it is doing.
Democrats have called on Haley to open up any House ethics proceedings to the public. But Haley, who ran on a platform of transparency and openness, has refused.
Some, including Hazelwood of the Ethics Commission, say state law does not allow Haley to open up the proceedings to the public even if she wants to do so. Others, including Harpootlian, interpret the law to say Haley has the right to make the House proceedings public.
For fullscreen, sharing and other options, use the toolbar at the bottom of this document.
Reach Smith at (803) 771-8658.