Haley Receives Gifts Totaling Tens of Thousands of Dollars

April 2, 2014

Investigative Reports

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Nikki HaleyLast year, Gov. Nikki Haley took trips reimbursed by others totaling nearly $47,000 and accepted other gifts collectively valued at more than $45,000, according to her annual income-disclosure statement filed this week with the State Ethics Commission.

Haley’s office did not respond Tuesday to written and phone messages from The Nerve seeking more specifics about some of the freebies, including confirmation of the identities of several of her largest donors, and the nature or purpose of their gifts or trips they reimbursed.

Haley, a Republican, received $106,078 in salary as governor last year and another $100,000 from Penguin Group USA, as listed on her income-disclosure form, known as a statement of economic interests.

Although not specified in her filing, Penguin Group USA is the publisher of Haley’s 2012 book titled, “Can’t Is Not an Option.” Haley previously has said proceeds from the sale of her book would go to her charitable foundation called “The Original Six Foundation.”

Mirroring past statements of economic interests, Haley’s latest income-disclosure form did not list the salary of her husband, Michael Haley, a military technician with the S.C. National Guard.

State ethics law requires the reporting of the “source, type, and amount of income, not to include tax refunds, of substantial monetary value received from a governmental entity by the filer or a member of the filer’s immediate family during the reporting period,” though the definition of “governmental entity” under the law doesn’t include federal jobs.

Maj. Cindi King, a spokeswoman for the S.C. National Guard, told The Nerve when contacted Tuesday that Michael Haley’s salary is funded with federal tax dollars, though she couldn’t immediately provide his salary amount.

South Carolina does not require the reporting of private sources of income, which prevents the public from monitoring potential conflicts of interest. Last April, the South Carolina Policy Council – The Nerve’s parent organization – launched “Project Conflict Watch” to voluntarily encourage state constitutional officers, including Haley; lawmakers; and other officials to voluntarily report their private income sources.

Haley did not participate last year in Project Conflict Watch and has not done so this year as of Tuesday. Two constitutional officers – Maj. Gen. Robert Livingston, the state’s adjutant general who oversees the S.C. National Guard, and state Treasurer Curtis Loftis – have voluntarily submitted forms this year, as have 16 state lawmakers.

In addition, in a first for the state in recent memory, S.C. Supreme Court Chief Justice Jean Toal and Justice Costa Pleicones voluntarily released their private sources of income to The Nerve earlier this year. Their documents are included in Project Conflict Watch.

Last year, four constitutional officers, 40 state lawmakers and one county official participated in Project Conflict Watch.

Haley’s latest income-disclosure form submitted to the State Ethics Commission, which was filed on Sunday, lists at least 20 in- and out-of-state trips taken last year that were reimbursed by other individuals or groups, valued at a total of $46,918. The out-of-state destinations included Miami, Palm Beach and Boca Raton, Fla.; Aspen, Colo.; and Washington, D.C.

Haley also received 230 other gifts, valued at a total of $45,554, from friends, supporters, politicians, companies, schools and organizations in 2013, her income-disclosure form shows. The gifts ranged from books and relatively inexpensive jewelry and clothing to the use of Clemson University football suites, each valued at nearly $2,900.

Several of the 10 listed donors of the football suites are members of the Clemson University Board of Trustees, including board chairman David Wilkins, the former S.C. House speaker and U.S. ambassador to Canada, records show. Haley is a Clemson graduate.

The single most-expensive gift in 2013 that Haley reported separately from her travel reimbursements was $3,750 in unspecified “accommodations” from Jodie McLean, who was identified only as a friend of the governor.

The Nerve could not confirm Tuesday with the Governor’s Office whether that donation was provided by Jodie W. McLean, president and chief investment officer of the Columbia-based Edens retail real estate company. Efforts to reach McLean were unsuccessful.

At least four out-of-state trips and one in-state trip last year for Haley were covered by an organization identified only as the “RGA” – most likely the Washington, D.C.-based Republican Governors Association. The organization on its website bills itself as the “most innovative and disciplined political committee in the country,” with a “primary mission” to “help elect Republicans to governorships throughout the nation.”

A spokeswoman for the association did not return phone and written messages Tuesday from The Nerveseeking comment.

Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican presidential nominee and former Massachusetts governor, reimbursed the costs of a March trip that Haley took from Palm Beach, Fla., to Washington, D.C., and back to Charlotte, records show. Haley endorsed and campaigned for Romney.

One of the most expensive trips that Haley reported on her statement of economic interests was an April speaking event in Palm Springs, Calif. The value of the trip was listed at $8,175.86.

The purpose of the trip was not listed. David Trott was identified as the provider of the trip, which originated out of Oakland County International Airport near Detroit, records show.

No information was provided about Trott. The Nerve could not confirm Tuesday with the Governor’s Office whether the provider of the trip was David Trott, chairman and CEO of a law firm, Trott & Trott, in Farmington Hills, Mich., near Detroit. The firm, according to its website, specializes in foreclosure, bankruptcy, eviction and litigation services, representing “mortgage bankers, banks, credit unions, mortgage servicers, regional property owners, investor groups and individual entrepreneurs in the state of Michigan.”

“Please be advised that this firm is a debt collector attempting to collect a debt,” according to the firm’s recorded phone greeting.

Trott is a Republican candidate for a U.S. House seat in Michigan’s 11th Congressional District. He declared his candidacy last September, according to published reports.

Haley’s campaign disclosure reports filed with the State Ethics Commission list campaign donations last April totaling $9,200 from David Trott, Trott & Trott, and two other companies with ties to Trott.

Efforts by The Nerve Tuesday to reach Trott were unsuccessful.

Reach Brundrett at (803) 254-4411 or rick@thenerve.org. Follow him on Twitter @thenerve_rick. Follow The Nerve on Facebook and Twitter @thenervesc.