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A Year in the Life of Nikki Haley

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While running for governor of South Carolina in 2010, state representative Nikki Haley campaigned against wasteful spending. If she were elected, she promised fiscal responsibility and personal accountability. She said her administration would be the most transparent in state history. Haley also vowed that she would protect South Carolina's business interests -- especially when it came to the state's ports in its competition with Georgia. On Nov. 16, 2010, Governor-elect Haley told a crowd of a thousand people in Charleston that she was tired of "Georgia having its way with us." This would not happen on her watch, Haley said.

In January 2011, Haley flew on a Cessna Clinton X jet on business to San Diego. The Associated Press later estimated the cost of the flight at $20,000. The Charleston (S.C) Post and Courier, citing a private booking service, said the cost was $35,000. The Post and Courier reported that Haley told the South Carolina Ethics Commission the flight was worth $1,400. S.C. Ethics Commission Director Herb Hayden told the newspaper that intentionally underreporting the value of a flight, which amounts to unreported campaign contributions, would violate ethics laws.

Haley became governor on January 12, 2011, a year ago. According to Newsweek, The Hill, and The Daily Beast, Haley is a rising star in the Republican Party and a possible vice presidential candidate.

This perception, however, conflicts markedly with the opinion of Haley in South Carolina, where there's voters' remorse. According to a Winthrop University poll late last year, only about 35 percent of South Carolinians approve of the job she is doing.

To give Haley the benefit of the doubt, let's examine her first year in office according to the issues she laid out for voters while campaigning for governor.

What could be fairer? So here goes:

January 13-The Associated Press reports that Haley will pay her chief of staff, Tim Pearson, $125,000 per year--$27,500 more than Gov. Mark Sanford paid his chief of staff the preceding year.

March 3
-Haley appoints a campaign contributor, attorney Tommy Cofield, to the University of South Carolina's Board of Trustees, replacing Darla Moore, the largest benefactor in the school's history.

March 10-Haley establishes the nonpartisan, taxpayer-funded South Carolina Health Planning Committee to study how to respond to a federal mandate to implement national health care in the state. Haley says the committee will decide "whether or not the state should establish a health insurance exchange," which creates a marketplace where insurance plans are sold.

March 14-The State newspaper, according to documents received through a Freedom of Information Act request, reports that Haley's 2008 application for a job as a fundraiser for the Lexington Medical Center listed her previous salary at $125,000 a year-$100,000 more than what she declared on her tax returns.

March 15-Haley tells The Associated Press that she did not fill out the application and said she never earned that much nor told anyone she did. When Haley spokesman Rob Godfrey is asked why she did not fill out the application and if she did not, who did, he has no comment.

March 16-Mark Shelley, the Lexington Medical Center's director of marketing and public relations, tells the Post and Courier that it is "highly unlikely" that anyone other than Haley filled out the application.

March 31-Haley dictates the conclusions of the South Carolina Health Planning Committee before the committee has had a single meeting, the Post and Courier reports in December.

April 21-The State newspaper, according to documents obtained through a FOIA request, reveals that Haley's office tried to convince news organizations to report that Darla Moore was replaced on the USC board of trustees because she ignored multiple requests to meet with the governor. The documents provide no evidence that Haley tried to contact Moore prior to March 3.

June 2-Haley orders state legislators to Columbia to finish a package of government restructuring bills. She threatens to send state troopers to collect the legislators at a cost of $42,500 a day.

June 6-The South Carolina Supreme Court rules that Haley's attempt to order legislators back to work is an "unconstitutional violation of separation of powers."

June 18-Haley and a delegation of 26 others go to Paris to recruit business to the state. North Carolina sends seven people. Georgia sends two.

September 5-Post and Courier reporter Renee Dudley writes the governor's June trip to Paris cost the state an estimated $127,000. The costs include airfare; five-star hotels; cocktails at the Paris Ritz; a $25,000 soiree for foreign business leaders at the Hotel de Talleyrand; and a chalet at the International Paris Air Show. "There is a method to the madness," Haley says. "I am selling the state the only way I know how."

September 8-Haley calls Dudley a "little girl" during a nationally syndicated radio interview with talk radio host Laura Ingraham.

September 8-Haley tells the Lexington Rotary Club that half of applicants for jobs at the Energy Department's Savannah River Site failed drug tests and half of the remaining applicants couldn't pass reading and writing tests.

September 9-Haley responds to demands that she apologize for calling Dudley a "little girl" by saying, "I'll forgive her bad story, if she'll forgive my poor choice of words." Haley does not explain what she means by Dudley's "bad story" and offers no evidence to contradict the facts of the story.

September 12-The Post and Courier reports that Haley and her staff stayed overnight at luxury beach cottages at Kiawah Island. The staff retreat costs $3641. By comparison, Gov. Mark Sanford held his staff retreats at his family farm in Beaufort, where they cooked hamburgers on a fire pit and slept in sleeping bags.

September 20-Haley acknowledges she can't support her claim that half of applicants for jobs at the Energy Department's Savannah River Site failed drug tests and half of the remaining applicants couldn't pass reading and writing tests. She says that she had probably repeated the story "a million times." She defends her comment by saying, "I never felt like I had to back up what people tell me. You assume you're given good information."

November 8-The Post and Courier reports that Haley is in California again to speak to conservative groups, expand her national image, and raise money for her 2014 re-election campaign. The newspaper reports that Haley has flown more than 50 times and has spent a month and a half outside South Carolina since becoming governor. It says the governor has accepted 20 flights from people with potential business with the state, including three who were appointed to important government positions.

November 10-The board that oversees the Department of Health and Environmental Control overrules a staff decision and approves a water quality permit for the Georgia Ports Authority to dredge the Savannah port. The decision is made without public hearings or feedback from political, business or environmental leaders. Critics charge that Haley and the board, which is comprised of the governor's appointees, betrayed the state's interests by giving Savannah a competitive advantage over Charleston. Haley dismisses bi-partisan criticism that DHEC's decision was influenced by a campaign fundraiser she attended in Atlanta with people with a financial interest in the Georgia port. The Post and Courier reports that the fundraiser was held a few days before DHEC's decision

November 18-The Post and Courier reports that the governor's trip to Europe cost the state $158,000-and not $127,000, as earlier reported.

November 20-The State newspaper discovers from a FOIA request that Haley's staff has deleted e-mails between staffers, raising concerns that the deleted e-mails may violate state public records laws.

December 8-Lawmakers, business groups, and environmentalists publically challenge DHEC's decision. "I don't think this issue is going away any time soon," state Rep. "Chip" Limehouse says.

December 11-A Winthrop University poll reports that 34.6 percent of South Carolinians approve of the job Haley is doing as governor. Her approval rating, according to the poll, is 10 points lower than that of Democratic president Barack Obama.

December 14-The Post and Courier, according to emails released as a result of a FOIA request, reports that Haley ignored the recommendations of the nonpartisan committee, which met 30 times over seven months, that was authorized to implement national health care reform. The newspaper reports that the governor's office had concealed its March 31 email that wrote that committee's conclusions before it ever met. Committee members call their efforts a waste of time and taxpayers' money.

December 16-Haley says the committee never considered the "a state health exchange." The Post and Courier reports that this contradicts her statement on March 10.

December 16-
Haley endorses former GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

December 16-Conservative talk radio host Rush Limbaugh says that Haley put her personal ambitions over her tea party supporters by endorsing Romney. Limbaugh criticizes Haley's endorsement as politically motivated. She wants to be vice president, he says.

No kidding.