Company CEOs, lobbyists and other prominent South Carolinians likely will be required to appear before a legislative panel in the coming weeks and reveal what they know about allegations that Gov. Nikki Haley illegally lobbied and exploited her public office as a House member.
The six members of the House Ethics Committee, who have subpoena power, are working now to create a possible list of witnesses.
Haley, who has repeatedly denied the claims about her work for a Midlands engineering firm and a hospital, also can call witnesses, although its unclear whether subpoena power will be granted to the governor, too.
The committee has not set a timetable yet for finalizing its witness list and calling witnesses to testify. Committee chairman Rep. Roland Smith, R-Aiken, said he hopes the committee will meet this week to begin discussions.
The investigation marks the first time the committee has investigated a sitting governor. A recent House rule change opened the investigation up to the public and media, putting extra pressure on committee members. They must decide to either clear Haley of the charges, fine her for making minor violations or send the investigation to the state attorneys generals office if they determine criminal wrongdoing may have occurred.
Possible witnesses some committee members have said they want to hear from:
• GOP activist John Rainey, who filed the complaint against Haley. Rainey has not yet appeared before the committee a fact that has miffed committee member Rep. Mike Pitts, R-Laurens. If theres a smoking gun, Id like for him to tell us where it is, Pitts said. Rainey has said he will testify if asked.
• Leaders at the Lexington Medical Center Foundation where Haley was employed as a fundraiser from 2008 to 2010. Fred Johnston, the foundations current board chairman, has already submitted an affidavit to the committee on Haleys behalf, saying Haley was not hired to lobby.
Her job was to plan events and raise money for the foundation, he stated. But Johnston was not board chairman at the time Haley worked for the foundation. The committee may call the former chairman, Haleys former supervisor and other employees of the foundation during the time of her employment.
• Leaders at Lexington Medical Center. Rainey claims Haley lobbied for the hospital as it sought to gain approval for a new heart surgery center.
Dan Jones, the centers current board chairman, also has submitted an affidavit, swearing that he is not aware of any work performed by Haley that was not done solely for the foundation.
Jones was not chairman at the time Haley was working for the hospitals foundation. The committee may call the hospitals former chairman from the time period Haley was working for the hospitals foundation as well as Mike Biediger, Lexington Medicals CEO, who exchanged emails with Haley and is expected to have direct knowledge of her work.
• Leaders at Wilbur Smith Associates, an engineering firm where Haley worked as a consultant from 2007 to 2009. Robert Ferrell, vice president of CDM Smith, the successor firm of Wilbur Smith, also has submitted an affidavit, saying Haley never served as a lobbyist for the company.
Rep. Laurie Funderburk, the only Democrat on the ethics committee, said some of the affidavits are carefully worded and leave open the possibility that Haley, a Republican, was a lobbyist. Haleys attorney has disagreed with that assessment.
Many others could be called to testify.
In an appeal filed with the House of Representatives, Rainey lists 16 people from whom he would like to hear testimony, including former employees of the hospital, its foundation and Wilbur Smith; lobbyist Richard Davis; House Majority Leader Kenny Bingham, R-Lexington; and former lobbyist Larry Marchant, who claims to have had a sexual tryst with Haley in 2008.
Davis, Bingham and Marchant said Friday it would be inappropriate for them to comment at this point in the investigation.
Potential Haley Witnesses
A look at possible witnesses in the Gov. Nikki Haley ethics investigation
John Rainey: The Republican fundraiser/activist filed the ethics complaint against Haley. Rainey alleges that Haley illegally lobbied, exploited her public office to benefit her employers and filed incomplete and false disclosure forms to hide her deception. He will likely be asked about the allegations and what proof he has.
Larry Marchant: The former lobbyist for BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina will likely be asked about donations his former employer made to a hospital nonprofit, the Lexington Medical Center Foundation, which employed Haley. Marchant claimed to have had a 2008 sexual tryst with Haley which the governor has denied.
House Majority Leader Kenny Bingham: The prominent Republican is from Lexington County, the same as Haley, and formerly served in the House with her. As an owner of a civil engineering firm, Bingham may be asked what he knows about Haleys employment at another Midlands engineering firm, Wilbur Smith, when it sought state work on a new State Farmers Market.
Fred Johnston: The Lexington Medical Center Foundations board chairman has submitted an affidavit to the committee that is investigating Haley, saying Haley was not hired to lobby. He will likely be asked to elaborate on his sworn testimony.
Dan Jones: The Lexington Medical Centers board chairman also has submitted an affidavit, saying that he is not aware of any work performed by Haley that was not done solely for the foundation and that Haley was not hired by the hospital to lobby. He may be called to elaborate on his testimony. Also, Mike Biediger, the hospitals CEO, may be called. Biediger is expected to have direct knowledge of Haleys foundation work.
Robert Ferrell: Vice president of CDM Smith, the successor firm of Wilbur Smith, also has submitted an affidavit, saying Haley never served as a lobbyist for Wilbur Smith. He, too, will be asked to elaborate on Haleys work for the firm.
Reach Smith at (803) 771-8658.