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Friday, September 23, 2011

And We Ask Madame: Où est le Boeuf ?

Agency Details $231,000 Tab for Haley’s Europe Trip

By Renee Dudley

COLUMBIA — The S.C. Department of Commerce spent about $158,000 on Gov. Nikki Haley’s economic development mission to Europe in June — an amount $30,000 higher than the figure it reported earlier this month.

The difference reflects “trailing expenses” filed by the state’s office in Germany, a spokeswoman for the Commerce Department said in an email.

The final expense report released Thursday night also shows taxpayers picked up tens of thousands of dollars in costs beyond the amount the Commerce Department covered.

The state paid about $5,100 for two agents from the State Law Enforcement Division to accompany the governor and about $4,600 for the State Ports Authority’s vice president of cargo development to attend. Eight regional economic alliances, which all receive a share of tax dollars, paid an additional $64,000 to cover the costs of sending 13 of their members to the International Paris Air Show.

The governor drew fire for the weeklong trip to France and Germany following a Sept. 4 story in The Post and Courier that detailed its costs and itineraries. The trip — which included five-star accommodations, a cocktail party at the Paris Ritz and a reception with the U.S. ambassador to France — coincided with legislative debate over the tightest state budget in recent history.

No new jobs stemming from the Europe mission have been announced. But Haley is optimistic, spokesman Rob Godfrey said in an email Thursday.

“She expects more job announcements in the future from her economic development trip to Europe, and she believes such efforts pay off handsomely for workers and taxpayers in our state,” Godfrey said.

The state’s biggest expense in Europe was a $106,000 “chalet” at the air show — a conference area with business equipment, private bathrooms and a patio, the cost report released Thursday shows.

Food and beverage service for the chalet cost an additional $1,300, while marketing costs were about $8,400, the report shows.

Total travel costs for the 28-member South Carolina contingent were about $77,000. The cost of the trip for Haley alone was about $6,900. Taxpayers also picked up the $4,300 bill for accommodations, meals and travel for two interns from the state’s Munich office, the report shows.

The Commerce Department fronted about $1,400 for travel, meals and accommodations for Michael Haley, the governor’s husband. He reimbursed the state Sept. 14, an invoice released Thursday shows.

A soiree for the state’s contingent and foreign employers at the Hotel de Talleyrand, a historic Parisian townhouse, cost $30,000 — $5,000 more than the Commerce Department reported earlier this month.

A Commerce Department spokeswoman said in an email Thursday the department co-sponsored the party with Boeing, Michelin and Lockheed Martin “to promote our state to business executives with existing and prospective companies that are or may be seeking investment opportunities in South Carolina.”

From the air show in Paris, some members of the South Carolina group also trekked to the German cities of Munich, Dresden and Stuttgart. A daily itinerary released to the newspaper last month shows the governor and her staff scheduled more than 20 meetings in France and Germany. The details of those meetings, however, are heavily redacted because they contain “confidential proprietary information,” the governor’s attorney said in response to a Freedom of Information Act request.

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