Republican Gov. Nikki Haley has promised to pay back the state for her use of State Law Enforcement Division security personnel on campaign fundraising trips after being asked about the practice by an Upstate newspaper.
According to the Spartanburg Herald-Journal’s Stephen Largen, SLED agents racked up over $16,000 accompanying the governor to seven out-of-state private fundraisers since Haley took office. While the first trip happened just over a month after the governor was sworn in, Haley’s campaign is only paying back the state after being caught by the Herald-Journal’s Freedom of Information Act request.
Common Cause of South Carolina Director John Crangle told the Herald-Journal it seems obvious the governor had no intention of reimbursing the state until being asked about it. Senate Democratic Caucus Political Director Phil Bailey agreed, commenting that Haley’s office “got caught with their hand in the cookie jar, and all of a sudden there’s a new policy.”
State ethics laws forbid politicians from using state resources to further their campaigns, so the governor’s office may have intended to claim the trips were official business in order to pass the costs off to SLED. Even if Haley had planned to pay back the security costs, the governor’s year-long use of state resources for political fundraisers still amounts to an interest-free loan to her campaign.
SLED wouldn’t comment on the actual size of the governor’s security detail, but sources tell Palmetto Public Record at least three agents accompany Haley on out-of-state trips. For some perspective, North Carolina Gov. Bev Perdue and former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner never traveled with more than two security personnel, according to sources familiar with the Democratic governors’ security and travel arrangements. Warner’s successor, Tim Kaine, only took one security officer on domestic trips while governor, despite a national position that was arguably higher-profile than Haley’s.
Of course, this isn’t the first time Haley has been busted for using state resources for personal business. Republican Sen. Jake Knotts introduced a bill that would limit the governor’s security detail to performing security work only after a member of her detail was caught fetching drinks for the governor last year at the Heritage golf tournament. That bill is being reviewed by a Senate Judiciary Subcommittee.