A public hearing by the House Ethics Committee begins Thursday morning as lawmakers look into the alleged lobbying activities of Representative Nikki Haley before she was elected governor.
At issue was whether she crossed ethical lines when she served in the House (2005-2010) and worked as a paid consultant for Wilbur Smith engineering firm and Lexington Medical Center– both had interests in state contracts and active legislation. Haley also worked as a fundraiser for Lexington Medical Center Foundation.
Haley reportedly made about $110,000 working for the hospital’s foundation and about $42,000 working for Wilbur Smith.
After the House panel decided to re-open the case, they called a list of witnesses including the hospital’s CEO and other officials, a former DHEC commissioner, an official with CDM Smith (formerly Wilbur Smith) and the man who brought the initial complaint, Republican activist and Haley critic John Rainey.
Thursday, the six-member panel will question witnesses and can call the governor to testify. She has not been subpoenaed, according to a House spokesman.
The penalties range from a reprimand to potential jail time if ethics laws were broken.
Gov. Haley has called Rainey’s complaints against her “a political vendetta.” She has also accused House Speaker Bobby Harrell (who led the House when she was there) of unfairly influencing the investigation.
Harrell’s answer in a statement: “Given the governor’s claim that there is no validity to these charges, combined with the extreme measures and false accusations now being employed by Gov. Haley, one can only wonder why” Harrell said. “Why to this level? What does Gov. Haley have to hide?”
This is the first time in Palmetto State history that the panel has looked into a governor’s activities that took place before they were governor.