SC Gov. Haley agrees to pay state for campaign expenses

ashain@thestate.comOctober 8, 2013 

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley

GERRY MELENDEZ — gmelendez@thestate.com Buy Photo

Gov. Nikki Haley’s campaign has reached an agreement with S.C. law enforcement and campaign watchdogs on paying to use state vehicles and security officers for campaign-related events.

The agreement comes six weeks after news reports about Haley and two campaign staffers riding in a state-issued SUV involved in a minor wreck at a Greensboro event for a political group with ties to Republican N.C. Gov. Pat McCrory. Republican Haley collected more than $35,000 from N.C. donors in the days around the June event.

The wreck raised questions about the governor’s use of a state vehicle for what appeared to be a campaign event. State ethics officials told The Associated Press that the Greensboro visit was not campaign-related.

More than a week after the wreck was revealed, the governor’s campaign announced it would start paying mileage for state-owned vehicles taken to campaign events.

The campaign has reimbursed the S.C. Department of Public Safety and SLED $1,178 for mileage dating back to Haley’s start in office in January 2011, spokesman Rob Godfrey said. The campaign already has reimbursed the state $7,610 for out-of-state travel.

“We have always followed the guidance of law enforcement and the Ethics Commission, did so in this instance, and will continue to do so going forward,” Godfrey said. “But we also look for opportunities to clarify and strengthen these guidelines not just for us but for future governors.”

The agreement signed last week by Haley, SLED chief Mark Keel and S.C. Ethics Commission director Herb Hayden and released Monday says:

•  The governor’s office will coordinate with her campaign to determine if an event is campaign-related. Two of Haley’s top campaign staffers used to work in the governor’s office, spokesman Godfrey and former chief of staff Tim Pearson.

Campaign events include fundraisers for the governor or other candidates that the governor attends, and rallies and other events planned by the campaign.

•  Expenses include mileage, airfare, hotels and meals. They do not include the cost of scouting locations in advance of the governor’s visit and salary for the security staff, except for overtime costs.

•  A list of campaign-related events will be submitted each quarter to state agencies that protect the governor. Those agencies will send an invoice to the governor’s campaign for their expenses, which will be paid within 30 days.

If Haley receives contributions or answers election questions at a non-campaign event, her campaign will work with S.C. Ethics Commission officials to determine if the governor must pay state security costs.

The agreement does not change the state’s responsibilities to protect the governor wherever she travels, SLED’s Keel said.

“SLED relies on Ethics Commission guidance on reimbursement issues,” he said. “This (agreement) is an unprecedented step to make sure there’s clarity on this issue going forward.”

The agreement comes as Democrats have questioned Haley’s ethics ahead of the 2014 governor’s race. The Lexington Republican agreed to pay $9,700 in fines and costs in July to the Ethics Commission because her campaign did not list the addresses for eight contributions.

“This is a document written by the governor, for the governor, and signed by people who answer to the governor, solely for the benefit of the governor,” Andrew Whalen, campaign manager for Haley’s expected Democratic opponent, state Sen. Vincent Sheheen, said Monday. “She is creating this document now only because she was clearly caught in the wrong ... and she knows it. ... Codifying corruption does not make it OK.”

If elected, Sheheen pledges to “never use state vehicles to transport campaign staff or collect campaign contributions,” Whalen said.

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