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A Refresher Course on Nikki Haley

Before thinking about 2016, Haley has lots of questions to answer in 2014's race.
Before thinking about 2016, Haley has lots of questions to answer in 2014's race.
Public domain photograph from

South Carolina governor Nikki Haley was recently listed by the Republican National Committee as a potential candidate for president in the 2016 race, and is competing for re-election this year. She deserves neither office, though.

Here’s a recap of her record over the last four years:

Nikki Haley could be a living example of the American Dream: she’s a first-generation American who worked for her parents’ business, and went on to be elected to State Legislature and then the Governor’s Mansion. Instead, though, Haley might be better described as the American Nightmare. Her one term as South Carolina governor has been rife with scandals, even while she was first campaigning for the office.

Competing on a Republican slate crowded with big political names, Haley’s 2010 gubernatorial likelihood seemed slight. During that same primary phase, she was questioned about conflicting reports of income – $125,000, she noted on a job application with a South Carolina hospital, but only $22,000 claimed on her federal tax returns for that same year. She argued that someone, if not the hospital itself, had changed the dollar amounts on the paperwork, but hospital administration was quick to point out her handwriting throughout on the documents. That left voters to ask, who was Haley lying to? The hospital, (to make herself look more qualified for a high-paying job) or the IRS (to skip out on taxes)?

An even naughtier sin stifled all news on Haley’s Income-gate, though. Three men, including a staff member of the previous governor’s, publicly stated they had extramarital affairs with Haley. The married mother of two children denied them all, but the divorce papers of one of the accusers even mentioned her by name. These accusations of affairs and her “how dare you?” replies only seemed to help Haley build up support from Republican voters, however.

The news on affairs stifled other news that might have been more damaging, too. Despite her own minority status, for example, Haley sought support from “Palmetto Patriots,” a questionable (and seemingly racist) organization that works to “fight attacks on Southern Culture.” In a private interview the organization recorded on video, Haley was quick to defend the Confederate flag’s presence on State House grounds, promising she’d make sure it never be brought down. The Civil War had nothing to do with slavery, she told group members (although that was the specific reason her own state gave when it seceded), and Haley showed her agreement when the interviewers told her that it was wrong to have enacted the Emancipation Proclamation.

Add in the endorsement from Sarah Palin and Haley’s Tea Party backing, and she went on to win the GOP nomination in a runoff. Either despite or because of low voter turnout, in November 2010 she snuck past the Democratic opponent by four percent.

Since taking the governor’s office, her term has moved on to bigger problems and scandals, ranging from multiple ethics violations to covering up those ethics violations, and using her campaign donations to pay the fines for those ethics violations. In 2013, a state board member sued Haley for claims she was paid to lobby for particular companies while still in the State House. Very recently, new claims – this time, a violation of State Ethics Committee “coordination” rules with Mark Sanford during her 2010 campaign – arose in the news, too.

Haley has held a strong and Marxian anti-labor stance since her first day in office, when she publicly stated “we’re going to fight the unions.” At a Feb. 2014 automobile manufacturers show, she even said she would discourage companies that accept labor unions from coming to South Carolina (which is a violation of state law, by the way). And while Haley claims she’s brought jobs to the state, leading to a dip in unemployment, she overlooks that Medicaid enrollment in South Carolina (which does not include the Medicaid Expansion that state legislature rejected) is at an all-time high. For that to happen means those jobs Haley claims credit for are very low-paying jobs, and that only create additional hardship on the state.

South Carolina also lost out on good-paying jobs directly due to a self-serving scheme by Haley. The Port of Charleston is in dire need of dredging to accommodate super-freighters, the much-larger cargo ships used by more and more shipping companies. After accepting hefty donations arranged by Georgia’s Chamber of Commerce, though, Haley used multiple tricks to ensure that funding for dredging went to the Peach State’s Port of Savannah instead of South Carolina’s own Port of Charleston.

Before she sets her eyes on the White House, she needs to focus on this year’s election, in which she again faces state Sen. Vincent Sheheen. The two are in a near dead heat, recent polls say. With a conservative independent in the race taking votes away from her, it looks like Haley’s political career might end this year.

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