The public doesn’t need to know if Gov. Nikki Haley goes Christmas shopping for her children. But her constituents are entitled to know if she travels to Washington on state business that also includes a little fundraising on the side.
The various out-of-state trips and in-state events listed – or left off – Haley’s official weekly schedules have become a point of contention with Common Cause, the government watchdog group. John Crangle, state director for Common Cause, recently criticized the governor for keeping part of her schedule secret and said she should report all her official business to the public.
Haley’s office, however, contends that the governor is forthcoming about her schedule but that she should not have to include events ahead of time that are not open to the media or public. Haley routinely provides the press with a list of planned activities for each coming week as well as a list of activities from the previous week.
But her office is selective about what is revealed. For example, a Dec. 2 speaking engagement in Greenville and a Dec. 5 trip to Washington were not included on her weekly schedule released to the public on Dec. 1.
During the Washington trip, Haley visited some members of the state’s congressional delegation, met with U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz to talk about funding for the Savannah River Site and attended a fundraiser for her 2014 re-election bid. Her office said the visit was not on her schedule because Haley “did not have any public events on her visit to D.C. and, as is the process for the public schedule since Day 1, only public events are listed.”
It is understandable that the governor might not choose to inform the public about trips or other events that are of a strictly private nature. But the recent trip to the nation’s capital involved considerable public business that could directly affect the state, not to mention a fundraiser with parties that still haven’t been specified.
To say that any events that are closed to the public need not appear on her schedule is a false distinction. The governor and her hosts can declare just about any event closed to the public.
In fact, the event she attended during a trip to Rock Hill last week was closed to the public and the press, even though it had been listed on her weekly schedule. But just because the general public is barred from attending such events doesn’t mean the public shouldn’t know about it or what business might be conducted at the events.
Haley boasts that she has been far more transparent about her activities than her predecessor, Mark Sanford. But that’s not setting the bar too high.
Remember, Sanford’s own staff thought he was hiking the Appalachian Trail when he actually was in Argentina pursuing the woman who now is his fiance.
Crangle believes that Haley needs a formal disclosure policy, and we agree. As it stands, her office appears to randomly pick and choose which of her activities should be made public.
Haley campaigned as a reformer who would be open and above-board with the public. Instead, she often has been secretive and elusive about her daily activities.
Haley is entitled to a private life, as is any public official. But when the public interest is involved – and public dollars are spent on things such as security details and use of the state plane – she owes it to the public to disclose her whereabouts.
Just being more forthcoming than Sanford is not good enough.