SC Supreme Court to hear Nikki Haley ethics case

01/30/2013 12:00 AM

01/29/2013 9:29 PM

The S.C. Supreme Court will hear arguments March 20 about whether Republican activist John Rainey’s ethics allegations against Gov. Nikki Haley should be heard in state court.

Rainey sued Haley over accusations she used her office for personal gain while she was a GOP state representative from Lexington County.

But 5th Circuit Judge Casey Manning ruled last year that Rainey ’s complaints should go instead to the House Ethics Committee, which subsequently cleared Haley twice.

The high court hearing could give new life to allegations that have haunted the first-term governor. After she was cleared by the House Ethics Committee, Haley sought to put those allegations behind her by advocating an ethics reform agenda, including abolishing or curbing the legislative ethics committees that now police House and Senate members.

Rainey, a Camden attorney who has been an active Republican fundraiser, appealed Manning’s decision to the Supreme Court. That court will not consider the allegations but whether ethics charges can be heard in state court.

“This isn’t about Nikki Haley,” said Rainey’s attorney, Dick Harpootlian, chairman of the S.C. Democratic Party. “This is about whether we have three branches of government or 21/2.”

Haley’s relationship with Rainey soured after they met at his Camden farm during her 2010 gubernatorial campaign. Rainey said Haley became unnerved when he raised questions about her non-legislative jobs, including her work as a consultant, that became the subject of his lawsuit. Haley, the daughter of immigrants from India, said Rainey made an insulting comment about her family’s heritage, possibly linking them to terrorists. Rainey said he made the remark in jest.

“From our perspective, this just means we’ll have yet another dismissal of these baseless claims sooner than we would have,” Haley spokesman Rob Godfrey said Tuesday.

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