COLUMBIA — The House Ethics Committee officially reopened Wednesday an ethics complaint that accuses South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley of illegally lobbying for two previous employers before she became governor.
The 6-0 vote comes four weeks after the panel dismissed all charges regarding her jobs as a fundraiser for a hospital and consultant for an engineering firm while she was a representative for Lexington County.
Questions about the process prompted further discussion.
“It’s a shame that South Carolina’s political system is once again failing the people and that politics are trumping the law,” said Haley spokesman Rob Godfrey. “The governor will do what she has done time and again throughout this process, before and after the claims were dismissed: be open and honest about her work as a legislator, and stay focused on the things that matter to South Carolinians.”
The dismissal May 2 on a 5-1, party-line vote came immediately after the panel unanimously found probable cause that a violation existed – a vote that opened the complaint to the public. Before that, the committee was barred from even acknowledging it existed.
The back-to-back votes prompted an appeal from long-time GOP activist John Rainey, who filed the complaint, and a resolution from Rep. James Smith, D-Columbia, that the panel reconsider its dismissal.
The committee took up the resolution two weeks ago and decided to ask Haley for documents to back up her defense – insisting that did not reopen the case.
Attorney Butch Bowers on Wednesday reiterated Haley’s arguments that she did not lobby for Lexington Medical Center or Wilbur Smith Associates.
He repeatedly noted three affidavits Haley’s office turned in last Thursday from officials representing those businesses.
Committee members will turn in a list of people they want to testify. Members will vote at their next meeting on who they want to appear before them. A public hearing will be held within 30 days.
In a statement, Rainey applauded the committee’s decision to “fully and transparently resolve this matter.”