COLUMBIA — Democratic state Sen. Vincent Sheheen issued a scathing letter Tuesday, hitting Republican Gov. Nikki Haley for her administration’s “horrible and preventable” handling of an international hacking that resulted in the theft of the personal information of 6.4 million S.C. consumers.
The open letter to South Carolinians was issued about a year after news of the hacking was first made public.
Haley “cover(ed) up the biggest breach of a state government in history,” Sheheen said, referring to the 16-days that passed between state officials learning of the breach and Haley telling the public. And, Sheheen said, Haley then awarded a “$12 million no-bid contract to Experian, a company that just months prior had been duped into selling personal data to a Vietnamese identity theft organization resulting in an investigation by the Secret Service.”
(Experian officials say they sold some information to a Vietnamese company that has ties to an identity-theft organization, but the sale did not involve any information from South Carolinians.)
The letter continues a familiar line of attack by Sheheen and S.C. Democrats – questioning Haley’s competency to lead the state. Everywhere he goes, the Camden Democrat brings up the hacking scandal and a tuberculosis outbreak in Greenwood County – news of which also was delayed before being shared with the public – to question Haley’s leadership.
“A lot can happen in a year – and that’s a good thing as we look ahead,” Sheheen said in his letter. “We can do better than the incompetence, secrecy and repeated failures of leadership that Nikki Haley demonstrated throughout the botched response to this hacking scandal.”
The big question for Sheheen is: Will S.C. voters remember the hacking in November 2014 and will they blame Lexington Republican Haley?
SLED Chief Mark Keel has said – and said again Tuesday – that he and the U.S. Secret Service asked Haley to wait before making public news of the breach.
“We were the ones that asked it not go public,” Keel said. “And we all believe today, knowing what we know, that it served our citizens’ interests best, at least from the investigative standpoint and trying to do what we could to protect the information.”
No arrests have been made in connection with the breach, and the state’s full report on the incident has not been released.
After the breach, Haley ordered a review of all cyber-security policies among her Cabinet agencies. And, as chairwoman of the State Budget and Control Board, Haley approved the outline of an $8 million identity-theft protection contract that includes a $1 million insurance policy to protect South Carolinian from losses because of the hacking.
The Haley campaign pushed back against Sheheen’s letter Tuesday, reminding voters that Sheheen endorsed expanding the state’s Medicaid program under the Affordable Care Act. Haley hopes to capitalize on the law’s troubled rollout, marred by technology glitches and news that some people could lose their current insurance coverage.
“With Obamacare unraveling before everyone’s eyes and hurting thousands of our citizens, it’s no surprise that South Carolina’s biggest Obamacare cheerleader, Vince Sheheen, is desperate to change the subject,” said Rob Godfrey, Haley’s campaign spokesman.
“The truth is that Gov. Haley has lead a massive and unprecedented effort across all aspects of state government to make our cyber systems more secure than ever and to protect our people from harm.”
Staff writer Andrew Shain contributed to this report. Reach Beam at (803) 386-7038.