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Friday, October 7, 2011

Governor Nikki Haley: 'You Pay, You Play'

Board Appointees Provided Personal Flights

From The Post and Courier
By Jim Davenport (AP)

COLUMBIA — Donors that South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley appointed to state boards have also allowed her to use their airplanes for travel valued at more than $5,300, according to an analysis on Friday by The Associated Press.

The governor’s spokesman said the travel will be disclosed on ethics and campaign reports.

Donors who provided flights included Allen Amsler, chairman of the Department of Health and Environmental Control Commission. On Monday, Haley credited Amsler with helping Boeing Co. complete its assembly facility in North Charleston six months early. However, no one close to handling DHEC’s permits with Boeing knew of Amsler’s involvement in speeding approval for the project after Haley appointed him March.

Amsler, appointed by Haley as the commission’s chairman in March, personally donated at least $3,000 to Haley’s campaign last year.

Haley spokesman Rob Godfrey said the two flights to Morganton, N.C., came as the governor visited a 4-year-old nephew with cancer in April and then attended his funeral in August.

“Allen Amsler and Traci Amsler have been dear friends of the Haleys for years,” Godfrey said. “The Amslers helped the Haleys visit their four-year old nephew while he was battling cancer and given limited time to live earlier this year, and then helped them travel to his funeral.”

Godfrey said the Amsler flights will “be disclosed on her statement of economic interest as required by state ethics laws. Any flights that have anything to do with the campaign are reported on campaign disclosures.”

The state requires annual reports of gifts and they aren’t due until April. Haley’s campaign finance report is due next week.

Haley has provided more details about travel than former Gov. Mark Sanford, who paid the largest ethics fine in state history after investigations of his travel and campaign spending. While Haley makes a flight log available, Sanford’s personal flight data wasn’t routinely disclosed.

Amsler’s flights weren’t the only ones involving people Haley put in leadership positions.

Amsler serves on the DHEC commission with Kenyon Wells, who co-chaired Haley’s inaugural committee. Wells personally donated at least $10,500 to Haley’s campaign. His plane was used in April to fly Haley to Palm Beach, Fla., where she was a guest speaker at a Heritage Foundation event, along with her chief of staff and a top campaign staffer. Haley also traveled on Wells’ plane in September for “personal time” to Athens, Ga., with her husband, staff members and Wells and his wife.

The flights provided by Wells were worth $1,556, the reports said.

Haley also appointed Ray Chandler as chairman of the Patriots Point Development Board, a panel overseeing the state-run, debt-strapped naval museum near Charleston. Chandler personally donated at least $5,700 to Haley’s campaign. Chandler’s plane flew Haley on two roundtrips in March as Haley held campaign-style town hall meetings in Bluffton and Myrtle Beach. Haley’s report said the trips cost $1,200 each.

Haley’s flight report shows travel those board members provided was worth $5,356.

That’s less than a third of the more than $18,212 in flights that Haley’s donors have provided since her November election. The report shows more than half of that spending total was for personal purposes. 

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