In case you’ve been living under a rock for the past 36 hours, Palmetto Public Record reported yesterday afternoon that three independent sources told us South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley could soon be indicted by the U.S. Department of Justice. As part of our reporting of the statements, we shared all the documents we could find connected to an investigation by the Internal Revenue Service into the finances of a Sikh temple run by Gov. Haley’s father.
We released the 2011 IRS letter informing temple officials that federal investigators intended to look into the group’s financial dealings, requesting documents and scheduling a meeting at the temple last spring. We also posted evidence that the group openly supported Haley’s 2010 campaign for governor, which would have been a violation of its tax-exempt status as a religious nonprofit.
Yesterday afternoon, we told you about five lawsuits filed against the temple by contractors alleging they’d been stiffed out of nearly $130,000 in the construction of a new temple that still hasn’t been built. The temple was supposed to be paid for by a $750,000 loan (taken out with the help of a bank president later rewarded by the governor with a political appointment), leaving us with one underlying question: what happened to the money?
Gov. Haley took to Facebook late last night to accuse us of lying, even though everything we posted was either public record or reliably-obtained documents — none of which have been challenged as untrue — or chatter which anyone even reasonably connected to this notoriously corrupt state will tell you is widespread among South Carolina’s political class.
Late Friday afternoon, the governor’s office released a letter from Eric Hall of the IRS’ legislative affairs office stating that the agency closed its inquiry last fall after finding nothing meriting further investigation (a hat tip to Stephen Largen of the Post & Courier for making it public, and we gladly would have printed it earlier if the governor’s office sent it to us).
We would like to note that dozens of reporters and observers have parsed — many incorrectly — our words regarding what Palmetto Public Record heard and wrote about a possible indictment. Given the furor which gripped many who followed our story, everyone from close friends to national reporters have been asking for comment, so here it is:
We’re glad the IRS stated today that they apparently found nothing untoward regarding the temple’s finances, and we’re glad (as Haley spokesman Rob Godfrey says) the lengthy chapter regarding Gov. Haley’s involvement seems to be closed. Since no normal person would have been able to get the IRS to send them such a letter within a day of these questions hitting the blogosphere, and since the IRS certainly didn’t answer our phone calls, the only way to get an answer to our questions was by taking them to the public.
The IRS said yesterday they wouldn’t comment on any possible investigations, and then said they couldn’t discuss it with anyone not directly tied to the investigation. For a person who told ABC News there was never any investigation to begin with, the IRS certainly sent Gov. Haley’s chief of staff a letter quickly regarding a situation from which she claims to be so distant.
Nevertheless, today’s letter should have been a refreshingly transparent development — certainly a change from how Gov. Haley’s office has conducted business in the past. We welcome the transparency of the governor’s office sharing her correspondence, and hope that the release of this IRS letter is an indicator that the Gov. Haley will open up other ethics investigations to public scrutiny.
As journalists, all we can do is ask questions, and tell you what we see and hear. We’re glad the latest IRS letter answers some of our questions, but it definitely doesn’t answer all of them — and it may create a few more once the chips are finished falling. Until these questions (and many other outstanding ethics questions regarding the way the governor’s office operates) are answered, you can bet we’ll continue to ask them.