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.