Nikki vs. the Speaker

One day last week (I’m thinking it was Monday the 10th), Nikki Haley called to say she wanted urgently to talk with me. She came by later that same day. With her approval (she had initially asked just to speak with me), Cindi Scoppe sat in with us. (I TRY not to meet with sources alone, on account of the fact that it’s pretty much a waste of time if someone OTHER than me needs to write about the subject, which is usually the case. Also, in case the meeting leads to an editorial, it helps if more than one board member hears the pitch.)

She didn’t want us to take notes, though, so what I’m writing here is from memory. At the end of our meeting, she agreed to go on the record — which meant that, since Cindi and I had to get back to work that day, Cindi had call her back another day and go through the whole thing AGAIN in order to write her column today, which  I hope you read. Antsy sources can be a problem that way.

Cindi’s column deals with the main conflict between Rep. Haley and her leadership in the House. This post is to provide some additional context from what she said — according to my memory (Cindi and Rep. Haley are welcome to berate me for any errors, which I will be happy to correct). Mind you, since I’m writing neither a column nor (perish the thought) a news story, I’m NOT spending a week running down reactions from other parties the way Cindi had to do to write her column. If anyone, including Speaker Harrell or Harry Cato, would like to ADD their comments to this post, they’re more than welcome. I’m just trying to offer as faithful an account of what Rep. Haley said as I can, before I forget it entirely.

When she first called to request the meeting, she didn’t tell me what it was about, but referred to what had happened when she ran against incumbent Larry Koon back in 2004. She mentioned that again when she arrived. In retrospect, I see only two things the previous incident had in common with this: Both were instances in which Ms. Haley felt embattled, and in both cases she was initially reluctant to go on the record. There was a third potential commonality: I DID write about what happened in 2004, and she seemed to hope I would see my way clear to do so this time. For what it’s worth, here’s a copy of what I wrote in 2004.

Anyway, last week Nikki began her tale by harking back to her chairmanship of the subcommittee that tried to pass a payday lending reform bill. What she tried to do did not go far enough in the opinion of this editorial board — she wanted regulation, not a ban. She can present all sorts of pro-biz reasons WHY regulation is better, and did so at the end of this video I posted here back during the recent election. Probably the most pertinent part is the very end of the video, when she says she had really, really wanted to pass a bill, and so had others on the subcommittee who had worked hard on it — but that was not allowed to happen. That struck me as interesting at the time, but she added to the story last week. She said the bill died after she was called in to meet with the speaker and Chairman Harry Cato and another member of the leadership (I want to say Jim Merrill, but I could be misremembering), and she was told that’s not what they wanted.

But that anecdote was sort of a warmup. She says that’s not why she’s at odds with the leadership now. She says the current conflict is all about her having become a champion, over the summer, of the notion that all House votes should be recorded. That led to various machinations aimed at denying her the chairmanship of the LCI committee, culminating in the speaker wanting to change the rules so that HE appoints committee chairs directly. Currently, the speaker appoints members to the committees, and the members choose their chair.

Speaker Harrell, as you’ll see in Cindi’s column, disputes Rep. Haley’s version of events, and says she’s making herself out to be more important in all this than she is. But they agree about one thing: The House leadership didn’t like it a bit when she went gallivanting about the state with the governor promoting her recorded-votes bill. Note that he says he’s for more recorded votes and all that (you may recall his recent op-ed on the subject). He prefers to portray Ms. Haley’s main sins as being a) working with the governor, and b) setting herself up as holier-than-thou.

Another House member who’s apparently gotten a bit too big for his britches in the leadership’s view is Nathan Ballentine, who has been writing about this all on his blog, here and here. He’s not the only one, by the way. So has Earl Capps, here and here. So has Will Folks.

Interesting, huh?

11 thoughts on “Nikki vs. the Speaker

  1. Doug Ross

    So who do you believe, Brad? Or are we to infer what you believe based on the links to other blogs where the writers don’t pull any punches as to whom to blame?
    Imagine a state government where the legislators worked under the same term limit arrangements as the governor. All the little empires would crumble.

  2. p.m.

    What happened to the “Parties got souls?” thread?
    All I get when I try to go there is a chance to advertise on this blog and a Rollyo search engine.

  3. Brad Warthen

    Oh, I believe the lady. I sympathize with her, too.
    Of course, there’s no fundamental disagreement here over the facts. It’s just the interpretation of the facts. She and Nathan have one interpretation in which she is sort of Joan of Arc, which (as Bobby maintains) may be a tad grandiose on her part. But there’s little doubt that she’s taken on the powers that be, and that makes her the sympathetic character.
    My main interest was in getting this stuff out there before the mini-session the week after Thanksgiving. We’ll know lot more by what happens then. Watch for the new rule to pass, and Nikki NOT to become a committee chair. That will lend credence to her interpretation. Of course, the leadership will maintain it WASN’T about her, and she never had a shot at the chairmanship anyway — which actually may be true (the latter part, anyway).
    But now that this is out there, it’s going to be SEEN as about Nikki, and that sort of makes it about her, doesn’t it?

  4. Brad Warthen

    My nominee for Biggest Irony in those links from other blogs: Will Folks standing up for womanhood:

    It’s obviously going to be a long time before a female politician earns
    a leadership position in Bobby Harrell’s “GOP-controlled” S.C. House of
    Representatives. It could also be a long time before anybody in that
    chamber raises their voice again on an issue that Harrell hasn’t

    One doesn’t usually associate Will with chivalry. Or feminism, if you read it more that way.

    But I digress.

  5. Reader

    “One doesn’t usually associate Will with chivalry.”
    That was very old-womanish of someone in your position. While you could paint yourself as above the fray with your very own pen, you resort to beating the same old dead horse. Your alliances are eating away at your integrity.
    One doesn’t usually associate you with objectivity.
    Great column Cindi.

  6. Ralph Hightower

    If you can sink Glen McConnell while he is tooling around in Charleston harbor in the Hunley, you have done the state a favor!


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