SC ethics panel says Haley does, does not have to repay state for NC trip costs

abeam@thestate.comAugust 28, 2013 

  • Going to Carolina

    June 27: Gov. Nikki Haley travels to North Carolina along with her political advisor and a campaign fundraiser. The state-owned vehicle Haley is riding in is involved in a minor accident.

    June 27-28: Haley’s campaign collects $36,500 from N.C.-based donors.

    Aug. 27: Media outlets learn of the June accident.

    Aug. 28: After reading reports of that accident, state Ethics Commission attorney Cathy Hazelwood says she has sent Haley’s campaign a letter telling it to reimburse the state for providing the governor with security on a campaign trip. Later, the agency’s chief says the trip was not campaign-related and she does not have to pay.

Gov. Nikki Haley’s campaign will not have to repay the state for the cost of a SLED security detail that accompanied her on a trip to North Carolina in June, the State Ethics Commission’s executive director said Wednesday.

Haley attended a late-June N.C. event sponsored by the Renew North Carolina Foundation, a 501(c)4 that supports Republican N.C. Gov. Pat McCrory. Tuesday, reports surfaced the state-owned vehicle Haley was riding in on that trip was involved in a minor car accident June 27. Haley, along with her political adviser and a campaign fundraiser, were passengers in that vehicle, according to a public incident report.

Cathy Hazelwood, the attorney for the state Ethics Commission, said Wednesday morning she had sent a letter to Haley’s campaign asking it to reimburse the state for providing the Republican governor with a security detail on a campaign fundraising trip. “I can’t fathom why you have campaign people in your car and that’s not a campaign event,” Hazelwood said.

Haley’s campaign disclosures show she collected $36,500 from N.C.-based donors June 27 and 28, dates that coincided with her Tar Heel trip.

But State Ethics Director Herb Hayden said later Wednesday that Hazelwood did not know “the whole story.” After speaking with Haley’s attorney, Butch Bowers, Hayden said the Ethics Commission did not send Haley’s campaign a letter.

“The mere fact that people gave her campaign contributions while she was there doesn’t make the event a campaign event or make the trip a campaign event,” Hayden said. “Say she’s invited to go speak at a luncheon somewhere and, while she is over there speaking, someone walks up and gives her a campaign check. The purpose of the trip was not campaign-related.”

Hayden said the commission was concerned about a comment by a Haley spokesman, quoted in The State on Tuesday, who argued the governor’s trip could not be a campaign trip because, at the time, Haley had not officially announced her re-election campaign.

“The reason for writing the letter was to clarify (Haley) has been a candidate ever since she started collecting money for the 2014 race, regardless of whether she declared herself as a candidate,” Hayden said. “As I understand it ... that person has been told that they misspoke. There really was no reason for the letter after that.”

As for Haley’s campaign employees traveling with her in state-owned vehicles, the state Ethics Commission, whose commissioners are appointed by the governor, already has said that is OK.

In May, Democrats criticized Haley for having a campaign employee travel with her on a state-owned airplane, saying it violated the state law that bars S.C. officials from using state planes for campaign purposes.

But Hazelwood had sent the governor’s office an email saying it was OK for campaign employees to travel with the governor on official business.

Haley’s campaign disclosure reports show the governor has reimbursed the state for security costs on campaign-related trips and nine fundraisers in California, Florida, New York, Texas, Ohio and Michigan, between July 1, 2012, and June 30.

Haley’s campaign paid the state Department of Natural Resources $3,103.80 and the State Law Enforcement Division $4,633.35 for security, according to Haley’s October 2012 disclosure report.

A Haley campaign spokesman said part of the money sent SLED — $1,268 — was to repay for security provided by the state Department of Public Safety.

State law requires a security detail for the governor. However, Haley agreed in 2011 to reimburse the state for campaign-related security at the end of each fiscal year.

Her campaign paid more than $7,700 in July 2012 to cover out-of-state fundraising events during the first 18 months of her administration.

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