A sometimes irreverent look at S.C. politics
‘Sucking up to Nikki Haley,’ but ‘don’t ask’
If the Buzz ever really does it – really does it – Buzz has only two requests: Can the S.C. House Ethics Committee be the jury? And can the witnesses, called to determine if Buzz really did anything wrong, be the wrong ones?
Consider these outtakes from the hundreds of pages of documents that Buzz received last week, as the result of a Freedom of Information request, in the matter of the House Ethics Committee’s investigation into ethics charges against Gov. Nikki Haley.
Attorney Ben Mustian, hired to represent the Ethics Committee, is deposing James D’Alessio, vice president of government affairs for Blue Cross Blue Shield of South Carolina.
Act 1: The ‘sucking up to Nikki’ email
Mustian asks D’Alessio about a Jan. 19, 2010, email from Blue Cross contract lobbyist Larry Marchant to D’Alessio, which D’Alessio sent on to then-Blue Cross chief executive Ed Sellers , asking for $20,000 donation to the Lexington Medical Foundation. (Then-state Rep. Haley was a fundraiser for Lexington, which was holding a fundraising dinner featuring former U.S. Ambassador to Canada and former S.C. House Speaker David Wilkins .)
Mustian: ... (P)ointing to that portion of the (Marchant) e-mail that says: “I’m still sucking up to Nikki Haley in the event that she comes on strong in the (June 2010 GOP gubernatorial) primary. It builds goodwill with Lexington legislators, even though Lexington Hospital staff can be difficult.”
And understanding that there are a few typos that may be in there, did I read that correctly?
Mustian: Mr. D’Alessio, let me ask you, what did that portion of the e-mail mean to you?
D’Alessio: To be honest, I probably didn’t parse the e-mail when I read it, with as many e-mails as I get; again, I read the e-mail in its entirety.
Ambassador Wilkins being a good friend and – and a significant figure for South Carolina; again, Representative Haley being a Lexington legislator; the reference to goodwill with the Lexington legislators is important to the community that we serve. ...
Mustian: ... You address building goodwill with the two of them (Wilkins and Haley). Is that – is it your understanding that that was the purpose of making this contribution to the foundation?
D’Alessio: Yeah ...
Act 2: The ‘$10,000 level, don’t ask’ note
Mustian then asks D’Alessio about a handwritten note authorizing a $10,000 donation by Blue Cross to a Lexington Medical fundraiser featuring former NFL quarterback Joe Montana .
Mustian: ... Do you know who made those – those notations?
D’Alessio: I believe it would be Ed Sellers.
Mustian: And what is Mr. Sellers saying in that notation?
D’Alessio: It says, “EN (the initials of another Blue Cross employee) do $10,000 level, don’t ask.”
Mustian: And what – do you know what the “don’t ask” means?
D’Alessio: I do not.
Mustian: Did you ever have any conversations with Mr. Sellers about making this contribution to the foundation?
D’Alessio: I did not ... haven’t had any conversations with anyone.
The Buzz feels for D’Alessio.
It’s a big world and everyone, including Marchant, seems to have email and, sometimes, they fire off the darnedest things. And, hey, sometimes the boss, like Sellers, says, “Jump.”
But, gee willikers.
Rather than D’Alessio, wouldn’t it have been better for the House Ethics Committee to call the colorful Marchant as a witness and ask what all this “sucking up” to a possible future governor was about?
Then, they could have called Sellers, who the Buzz and D’Alessio both respect immensely, as a witness and asked: “Don’t ask?” Why not? Do tell.
Alas, the committee chose not to.
It cleared Haley of charges of influence peddling, essentially coming down on the side of – as advocated by the governor’s lawyer – that everybody in the Legislature does it.
But there is an upside to all this. If Buzz ever really does it, Buzz now knows who to ask for on the jury and the witness stand.
Buzz is heartbroken ... sniff
It’s no secret that The Buzz’s relationship with Gov. She Who Must Not Be Questioned has been off and on, and off and off, and off ...
But Buzz has never been dropped before and found out about it in a Tweet.
A Tweet! Not even a letter? And Buzz tried so hard to make it work!
Take the last two weeks, for instance. Buzz spent hours trying to get answers about the First Daughter’s new job – from Parks, Recreation and Tourism, the family-and-friends employment agency that reports directly to Gov. Facebook; from the Budget and Control Board, which the governor chairs; and from the Governor’s Office, which said Buzz was cruel for asking.
Then, the Governor’s Office decided to give the answers to Buzz’s questions – which evidently were un-cruel suddenly – to some paper in Charleston.
In response, state Rep. Leon Stavrinakis, D-Charleston, tweeted: “Hmm. Haley will release info to P&C but no one else.”
Buzz is heartbroken.
It’s all because Charleston has – sniffle – bigger beaches.
But Buzz – sniff, sniff – has a better personality.
Leon, can you send the Buzz some Kleenex? It’s 1401 Shop Road, and Buzz is not going anywhere. ... Just sitting here. ... And sulking. ... And eating an entire box of dark-chocolate Godiva’s.
And parsing why Buzz ever thought state government restructuring was a good idea.
What was Buzz thinking?
Giving a governor more power over more state agencies so that, when asked a question, they can say, “We’re with beach boy. Buzz off.”