COLUMBIA — Gov. Nikki Haley did not use her office for personal gain while serving as a representative from Lexington County, the S.C. House Ethics Committee ruled Friday.
The committee weighed seven allegations against Haley that included illegally lobbying for her employers and using her office to pressure lobbyists and their clients for donations to a foundation where she worked.
The committee vote was nearly unanimous to dismiss all the charges. Rep. Laurie Funderburk, the sole Democrat on the committee, voted against dismissing a complaint that Haley made a false or misleading statement on an economic disclosure form. The committee has asked Haley to make one wording adjustment to one of her economic interest statements.
“It's just a shame that our judicial and legislative bodies have had to waste so much of their time on phony political charges that never had any evidence behind them or any basis in fact,” Haley said in a statement.
This is the second time the committee composed of Haley's former colleagues have cleared the governor in the case.
Members found probable cause of a violation in early May but voted to close the case after ruling no other further investigation was warranted. They reopened the probe weeks later after requesting more employment documents from Haley.
The committee listened to more than 12 hours of testimony on Thursday from Haley's former employers, corporate executives, lobbyists and a former state agency head.
They all said she did not use her position as a representative to lobby for Lexington Medical Center where she worked as a $110,000-a-year fundraiser at its foundation or Wilbur Smith Associates where she was paid $48,000 as a consultant. They also said she did not pressure them or offer favors for making donations to the medical center foundation.
Haley made a surprise appearance on the witness stand late in the hearing. After saying she had done nothing wrong, the governor angrily lashed out at GOP activist John Rainey, who filed the complaint that started the ethics case.
Haley called Rainey a racist who was trying to destroy her family — a characterization based on their only meeting when she was running for governor. She also said she found it strange that Rainey was being represented by Dick Harpootlian, chairman of the S.C. Democratic Party.
In a statement issued Friday, Rainey said he would not comment on what he called “Haley's personal attacks (that) are merely an effort to distract from the substantive and still unresolved questions I have raised.”
Rainey released a photo of a note he said he received from Haley shortly after their meeting that ended, “I will work hard to earn your support and make you proud.”
“I believe this demonstrates, yet again, her inability to tell the truth,” Rainey, a Camden businessman and attorney, said Friday.
Rainey was subpoenaed at the request of Haley's attorneys but was not called to testify after 12 hours of being sequestered in the Blatt Building on the State House grounds. He accused the committee and governor of acting bad faith by excluding him the hearing.
“Today it is clear that the House Ethics Committee harbors a culture of corruption enshrouded in a conspiracy of silence,” he said. “The members of the committee ought to be ashamed of themselves.”
Haley faced a reprimand from the committee or having her case referred to the S.C. Attorney General.