The Buzz

July 5, 2014

THE BUZZ: What to get the woman who runs a state

A semi-automatic rifle, T-shirts from Joan Jett, cheese from Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and a portrait painting are among the $22,573 in gifts that Gov. Nikki Haley received this year.

The Buzz

A blog from The State's political team of Cassie Cope, Jamie Self and Andy Shain. Email tips to

Gov. Nikki Haley beamed last week after receiving a $1,200 semi-automatic commemorative rifle with “Shall Not Be Infringed ...” engraved on the barrel after a tour of PTR Industries, a Connecticut arms maker that moved recently to Aynor.

The gun joined other gifts she’s received in recent months: $200 in T-shirts, sweatshirts and CDs from rocker Joan Jett after they met for lunch in New York; a Tiffany pearl pendant and necklace worth $250 after speaking to the Dallas GOP; and two paintings, including a portrait of her, given by artists, valued at $15,000.

As the state’s CEO, Haley gets goodies at many events she attends, from dignitaries who visit and in the mail at her State House office. She also receives access to suites to football games at Clemson, where she attended college, that make up a bulk of her gifts reported to the state.

Since becoming governor in 2011, Haley has reported $152,600 in gifts, according to public filings and information supplied by her office. That easily eclipses her tally during her final four years as a state representative from Lexington when she received a total of $5,874 in gifts, according to S.C. Ethics Commission records.

Her predecessor, Mark Sanford, reported receiving $24,200 in gifts in total over his last four-year term from 2007 to 2011. Haley’s Democratic challenger this year, State Sen. Vincent Sheheen, gathered $30,200 in gifts since 2007, the earliest online records available.

For Haley, many of the 160 items she received this year came from schools. Books, calendars and gift baskets were the most frequent gifts. Most items are valued at less $25.

Her office did not respond to questions about what does with the gifts. Her spokesman said Haley appreciates what she receives: “She's always touched by these acts of kindness and friendship.”

Among the $22,573 in gifts Haley received so far this year were $100 in cheeses and a $12.99 six-pack of beer from Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker to settle a bet after the University of South Carolina beat Wisconsin in the Capital One Bowl.

She also received $75 in Orange Bowl merchandise and a $50 ceramic vase made by students from Clemson University president Jim Clemments and a $200 Tory Burch wallet from Tiger football head coach Dabo Swinney‘s wife, Kathleen.

Others, like PTR, were industrial recruits that handed Haley gifts.

Tire makers Koyo, which announced an expansion in Orangeburg, gave coasters and a jacket valued at $40, while Giti, which is opening a Chester County plant, gave two marionette puppets, an umbrella and other small items all worth $250. She got a ticket to see Bruno Mars from Bill and Lou Kennedy, the owner Nephron Pharmaceuticals, which is opening a plant in Lexington County.

Even though Haley would veto its funding this year, First Steps, an early-childhood program, gave her a $8.99 copy of “The Little Engine that Could,” according to a list supplied by her office.

In past years, the governor has listed use of several suites at Clemson football games, valued most times at $2,894 each, according to state records. She has used suites belonging to school trustees David Wilkins and David Dukes as well as several other chief executives and major university donors.

The suite costs over three football seasons account for 57 percent of her gift total since becoming governor.

She also received tickets to the Atlantic Coast Conference basketball tournament and Chicago Cubs as well as $1,700 in basketball tickets from New Jersey healthcare mogul Vivek Garipalli, who contributed $300,000 to a pro-Haley political group.

Mitt Romney, whom Haley backed in the 2012 GOP presidential primary, along with his wife, Ann, have given the governor a fruit box, book and flowers ($160 value). Another 2012 presidential prospect, U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, gave Haley a House of Representatives dish ($40 value).

Haley received a $500 camera and a $750 pearl pin from undisclosed company prospects during a 2012 trade mission to Japan.

Sheheen, who is running a second time against Haley, does not receive as many gifts since he is not in a prominent statewide seat.

He traveled to Switzerland and Turkey in trips sponsored by the American Swiss Foundation and S.C. Dialogue Foundation, respectively, in 2011. The value of those visits, totaling $14,000, account for about half of his gifts over the past seven years, according to reports with the S.C. Ethics Commission.

Sheheen has received tickets and parking to the Carolina Cup steeplechase race, valued usually at $425, in his native Camden most years dating back to 2007. Sheheen also reported gifts for his hotel stays and meals during speeches to solicitors, judges and other legal groups ranging from nearly $100 to $850.

This year, state Democratic party officials said Sheheen has received about $700 in tickets to community events including the Carolina Cup and the Taste of Pageland and Taste of Cheraw festivals.

The Buzzies

Some quick awards from recent weeks:

In the Bag: Former S.C. Attorney General Henry McMaster, for his election-day diversions. McMaster attended the Supreme Court hearing between Attorney General Alan Wilson and House Speaker Bobby Harrell on the afternoon of his GOP runoff for lieutenant governor against Mike Campbell. He won by 27 percentage points.

Welcome to the Job: Former Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell, for a crisis during his first day of leading the College of Charleston on Tuesday. McConnell, used to messes in the state Senate, had to handle questions about verbal-abuse allegations against Cougars head basketball coach Doug Wojcik.

Mr. Popularity: U.S. Rep. Trey Gowdy, for making all those mouse clicks. The Spartanburg Republican was the ninth most-Googled member of Congress in the past year, according to a report in the National Journal. Benghazi has been good to him.

Best Idea Ever (male wardrobe division): The Richland County Council, for No-Tie July. Councilman Jim Manning pushed forward this plan successfully despite a brief debate on how women could participate. The Buzz thinks women should not have to wear ties either.

Staff writer Dawn Hinshaw contributed.


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