|About one-third of S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley’s campaign fundraising has come from out-of-state contributors. (Photo/Leslie burden)|
Published March 26, 2012
Since 2009, more than a third of Gov. Nikki Haley’s campaign contributions have come from outside the Palmetto State.
Haley has raised roughly $4.7 million, according to campaign finance reports filed with the S.C. Ethics Commission, and about 35% — or $1.6 million — of her contributions came from outside South Carolina.
Haley’s percentage of out-of-state contributions is three times more than her nearby counterparts, North Carolina Gov. Bev Perdue and Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal. Haley’s out-of-state contributions are also roughly 12 percentage points higher than her predecessor, former Gov. Mark Sanford.
Perdue was elected governor in the 2008 election, and since 2007, she has raised $17.2 million, according to the North Carolina State Board of Elections. About 11% — or $1.9 million — came from outside North Carolina.
Sanford’s campaign contributions weren’t available on the S.C. Ethics Commission website, but the National Institute on Money in State Politics compiled data from Sanford’s elections in 2002 and 2006. Overall, Sanford raised $15.3 million, according to the institute. About 23% — or $3.5 million — came from outside of South Carolina.
Haley’s office and fundraising staff ignored repeated and detailed questions about out-of-state fundraisers and contributions.
A presence and voice
Edwin Bender, executive director of the National Institute on Money in State Politics, said governors are easy targets for out-of-state money because they deal with multi-state issues.
“When companies know they’re going to be in front of multiple states, they’re going to try to have a presence and have a voice,” Bender said.
But, Bender said, any time researchers see out-of-state funding rise above 20%, “we kind of scratch our heads.”
Most out-of-state funding comes from Los Angeles or New York, where candidates and office holders can get seed money for their campaigns, he said.
Haley has raised $65,000 from California and $128,800 from New York state, according to her campaign disclosures. Roughly 12% of her out-of-state contributions came from those two states.
Bender said Haley has more opportunity to raise out-of-state money because she is a high-profile candidate who received national attention for becoming the first female minority governor of South Carolina and was elected in 2010 during a wave of Tea Party enthusiasm that swept Republican candidates into statewide and national offices.
Haley also captains a state with a prized early primary, which brings presidential candidates and national attention to the Palmetto State every four years, including this year when she campaigned for former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, who came in second in South Carolina.
“She’s obviously a candidate, with her profile now, to take the next step up to the House or the Senate and to make a challenge there,” Bender said. “All of that comes into play.”
Kyle Kondik, a political analyst for the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, said out-of-state fundraising by an elected official could lead to a chicken-versus-the-egg argument.
“Is Haley doing out-of-state fundraisers to build her national profile, or is she already a national figure who is a hot commodity for out-of-state fundraisers?” Kondik said in an email. “Probably a little of both.”
Possible giveaways for politicians with national ambitions include fundraisers in Iowa and New Hampshire, two states that also hold early primaries. Kondik said South Carolina is included in that list but that giveaway doesn’t apply to Haley since she is governor here.
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‘The appearance of impropriety’
State candidates can run into trouble if they take out-of-state funds from people or organizations with interests in specific policies, Bender said.
“Then the money starts looking like it was given for a purpose,” he said. “And it is the appearance of impropriety that causes people to hold their nose.”
“As for the connection between fundraising events and controversial decisions, the truth — whatever it may be — doesn’t always matter,” he said. “The appearance of impropriety can be enough to lead to questions.”
Lawmakers criticized Haley late last year for holding a fundraiser in Georgia weeks before the Department of Health and Environmental Control issued a controversial permit for the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project, which will deepen the river up to 48 feet so larger container ships can access Georgia Ports Authority terminals. Opponents of the decision say the project jeopardizes the environment and a $5 billion port development in Jasper County, S.C.
Haley held the fundraiser at an Atlanta law firm, McKenna Long & Aldridge, and raised $15,000. She said the fundraiser was planned months in advance and did not play a role in the DHEC board’s decision, which over-ruled a staff decision to deny the permit.
“There were no ties to the port,” Haley said of the fundraiser.
During a state Senate committee investigation of the permit, Sens. Bradley Hutto and Joel Lourie said they were concerned about the fundraiser’s timing, host and attendees.
Hutto, a lawmaker from Orangeburg, said McKenna Long & Aldridge handles Georgia Ports Authority business and has a senior partner who is a former chairman of the Georgia Ports Authority.
Lourie, a lawmaker from Columbia, said the vice chairman of the Georgia Ports Authority also attended the fundraiser.
Hutto said the who, what and why of the fundraiser raised questions.
“All of that adds suspicion to this process,” he said. “Maybe there is nothing there, but it raises concerns.”
‘The state’s business first’
Bender said disclosure is the first step to transparency.
The National Institute on Money in State Politics has begun collecting each state’s campaign contributions and begun publishing the data online to create more transparency.
Bender said the institute hopes to create a profile of the modern-day statesman through data like the number of votes the candidate won by, the decisions the candidate has made and the source and amount of money the candidate has received.
“We’ve descended into the sound-byte hell,” Bender said. “And hopefully, we can get back to a place where people understand they’re electing the best person who has the broadest interest.”
|S.C. Treasurer Curtis Loftis|
Lawmakers also questioned the changed stance toward Georgia and the mechanics of the DHEC permit.
In 2010, Haley spoke during the State of the Port address, saying: “Georgia has had their way with us for way too long, and I don’t have the patience to let it happen anymore.”
After DHEC staff initially denied the permit, Georgia Gov. Deal flew to Columbia to ask Haley to allow Georgia officials to meet with the DHEC board about the permit. Haley agreed, and the board and Georgia reached an agreement, she said.
“(It) becomes incumbent on her to bend over backwards to make sure people feel like she’s doing the state’s business first,” Bender said.
Curtis Loftis, the S.C. state treasurer, said the state’s executives are out-of-state too often.
“They’re off doing all sorts things, giving speeches, raising money, in many instances, furthering their own political career,” Loftis said. “I don’t see where that is part of service to the average person of South Carolina.”
Reach Matt Tomsic at 843-849-3144.