Lawsuit asks court to decide if SC Gov Haley broke ethics laws as House member

COLUMBIA — A top Republican donor and critic of Gov. Nikki Haley asked a court Thursday to decide whether she broke ethics laws while a member of the South Carolina House. Haley’s office discounted the lawsuit as a political stunt.


The lawsuit filed in circuit court in Richland County by John Rainey centers on Haley’s jobs as a fundraiser for Lexington Medical Center and with an engineering firm that has state contracts. The lawsuit is the culmination of months of digging by Rainey, former chairman of the state Board of Economic Advisors, who first raised questions about her work last fall during Haley’s campaign for governor.

Rainey is a longtime Republican activist. He declined Thursday to comment on the suit. His lawyer for the case, Democratic Party Chairman Dick Harpootlian, also declined to comment at his client’s request.

Haley spokesman Rob Godfrey called the lawsuit a stunt “by a disgruntled Republican has-been and the chairman of the state Democratic Party.”

“It’s a shame they would waste the court system’s time with this obviously frivolous suit,” he said in a statement. “The governor acted completely appropriately in all these matters – something that has been made clear every time these same two career political antagonists try and rehash these issues.”

The lawsuit accuses the Republican governor of working as a lobbyist for the hospital, and of soliciting lobbyists to donate to its foundation.

It also accuses her of failing to disclose information on campaign filings about her work for Wilbur Smith, and of not recusing herself from a vote benefiting the employer, as well as not explaining on another vote why she did recuse herself.

“Haley exploited her public office for personal financial gain by trading on her influence and office to benefit corporations that were paying her money,” the lawsuit alleges.