SC Supreme Court to hear Nikki Haley ethics case

01/29/2013 5:15 PM

01/29/2013 6:03 PM

The S.C. Supreme Court will hear arguments March 20 whether Republican activist John Rainey's ethics allegations against Gov. Nikki Haley could 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 Fifth Circuit Judge Casey Manning ruled last year that Rainey’s complaints should go before the House ethics committee, which cleared Haley twice. Ending or curbing the Senate and House ethics committees policing their members has become central to proposed reforms, including those backed by the governor.

Rainey, an attorney who has been an active fundraiser, appealed Manning’s decision to the Supreme Court, which 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 about whether we have three branches of government or 2 1/2.”

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 outside jobs 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. Though she sent a thank-you card to Rainey, the governor called him a bigot during her testimony at an ethics hearing this summer.

“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.

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