Show us transparency, Nikki: Release the e-mails

Did you see the strong editorial in The State Sunday, challenging Nikki “Transparency” Haley for hiding behind a loophole in FOI specifically carved out to protect legislators, and legislators alone, from transparency in order to keep her state-issued e-mail secret?

I was very glad to see it. As the edit pointed out, this isn’t about Will Folks or disgusting sex allegations. Neither The State‘s editorial board nor I expect to find anything about that if we ever see those e-mails. But the fact that this started with such accusations creates a smoke screen that lets Nikki get away with a flagrant flouting of the principles she lets on to hold most dear. From the heart of the editorial:

Ms. Haley, after all, is not just someone who thinks government transparency is a nice thing. Her one claim to fame as a legislator is her crusade to bring sunlight to a legislative process that for too long has protected lawmakers from accountability rather than giving the voters information they deserve. Her entire campaign for governor is built on that push for openness, for letting the public in on the Legislature’s secrets, for eliminating the special perks and privileges legislators give themselves and their friends.

Does that apply only to the direct expenditure of public money?

Does it apply only to other people?

Imagine if the blogger had claimed that he helped Rep. Haley secretly funnel millions of tax dollars into a green-bean museum and steer tens of millions more in cushy no-bid contracts to her campaign donors, and that messages on her government e-mail account would back up his claim. Is there anyone who would not be demanding that she make the correspondence public?

What is she hiding? Why doesn’t she want us to see the messages she has been sending as she juggled her campaign for governor with doing her job as a legislator?

It is not Ms. Haley’s job to disprove unsubstantiated allegations. It is, however, her job to prove that her commitment to ushering in government transparency and ushering out special legislative privileges is sincere — even more since it has been called into question before. She still hasn’t explained what she did to earn more than $40,000 in consulting fees from a government contractor that hired her for her “good contacts.”

If Ms. Haley were governor, we already would have seen her e-mails, because what governors write on their government e-mail accounts is public record. In fact, Gov. Mark Sanford’s attorney saw fit to turn over some e-mails from his personal account, because she determined that he was using it to discuss public business.

If Ms. Haley were the president of the University of South Carolina, we already would have seen her e-mails. Ditto if she were a $30,000-a-year clerk in the bowels of the bureaucracy, because what nearly all state employees write on their government e-mail accounts is public record.

The only reason her public e-mail correspondence has remained hidden is that she is a legislator, and legislators have written themselves a special exemption to the Freedom of Information Act.

This exemption is the very epitome of the secrecy that Ms. Haley vows to eliminate.

I’m glad to see this now. Because at some point, someone was going to point out this obvious inconsistency and raise a stink about it. My concern has been that it would happen in late October, thereby engendering another tidal wave of protective emotion that would sweep Rep. Haley to victory.

The time to address this is now, when there’s time to be calm. Time to see that she cannot possibly have any legitimate excuse not to share these state-sponsored communications.

What is she hiding, indeed? For all I know, absolutely nothing. But then I don’t know, because she’s hiding it, in a stunning display of contempt for the ideals she says she stands for.

22 thoughts on “Show us transparency, Nikki: Release the e-mails

  1. Doug Ross

    Do you really think more than 1% of the voters in SC care a bit about this issue? This is all echo chamber stuff inside baseball stuff that doesn’t mean anything to those of us in the real world.

    You and your Sheheen buddies are grasping for straws to find something, anything that might be turned into an issue to give Sheheen a chance. Pretty grim strategy for Sheheen to pin his hopes on.

  2. murraywood

    Nice editorial, finally, from the State. On point and highlighting a growing concern many feel toward the transparent Ms Haley.

  3. Brad

    No, Doug, actually I didn’t want to mention this because people would say exactly what you’re saying. But you are unjustified in saying so.

    But the fact that anyone who questions St. Nikki on any point gets shouted down by her defenders makes it impossible to examine her campaign on even the most basic level. What’s so hard to understand about what I’m saying: She accuses lawmakers of having an aversion to transparency, and she’s right about that. It’s disgusting that lawmakers would exempt themselves from a provision that applies to the governor and state employees.

    She holds herself up as being above that, as adhering to a higher standard. So when she’s asked to disclose the records of her PUBLIC e-mail account, she says no, and hides behind that very exemption lawmakers have allowed themselves, the exemption that is the PROOF of the truth of her accusation that they hate transparency.

    How does anyone who is intellectually honest let her slide on that?

    Or on not initially disclosing the $40,000 payment from Wilbur Smith for her influence?

    And why does this stuff always have to come out at the last minute, so that she can use it to burnish her reputation with her base of being persecuted? That’s why I’m raising it now. There is NO excuse for her to stonewall on this.

    Some people may have lurid imaginations about what those e-mails contain. I do not. I don’t think there’s anything there like what Will Folks alleged. But for some reason, she STILL won’t release the information. And that’s weird. Weird, and contradictory, when set against what she says she believes in.

  4. Doug Ross

    If she releases the emails, you’ll find something in there to continue the anti-Nikki campaign. Let’s see you try and get the general public interested in this triviality. They are interested in one thing these days: JOBS. That’s it. They will vote for the person who they think has the best shot at creating an environment that creates jobs in this state (private sector jobs).

  5. Lynn T

    Thank you for continuing to hold Haley accountable on this. It is only one part of her unwillingness to be held to any reasonable standard. As a legislator, she had a record of non-accomplishment, a product of her history of failing to appear to do her job, failing to work with others, and dramatic self-promoting performances. Her actual record of accomplishment is only marginally better than Alvin Greene’s. None of this seems to bother her followers.

  6. Kathryn Fenner

    @Doug– the voters care about so little–that’s why we got Alvin Greene. The apathy of most of the voters does not remove subjects from reasonable scrutiny, though….

  7. bud

    They are interested in one thing these days: JOBS. That’s it.

    Doug, that’s true but how can you trust someone to help you with your job situation when she can’t even be forthcoming about an issue that she champions. Frankly I think she must be hiding something. I don’t trust her one bit. (I would say I don’t trust her as far as I can throw her but she’s pretty skinny). She’s behaving just like your garden variety politician, saying one thing, doing another.

  8. Cicero

    @Doug – I hate hypocrisy, no matter what side of the aisle it’s on. I also hate arrogance.

    Haley demonstrates both in spades by refusing to turn over state-issued emails after running on a transparency agenda.

    Sheheen hasn’t done much to impress me, but at least he hasn’t insulted my intelligence.

  9. Kathryn Fenner

    Another thing about Nikki Haley, aside from the patent lack of transparency, is that she’s a total been counter, and bean counters love to lay people off–helps the stock price. They don’t have the “vision thing” that understands that there’s more to running a business or a government than the bottom line on a short term balance sheet.

  10. scout


    You are pretty hard on Brad for being anti-Nikki, but I think he has been straightforward about his reasons for the issues he has with her. It doesn’t seem to be a vendetta just for the sake of a vendetta. You, likewise, seem staunchly pro-Nikki, but I am much less clear on your reasons. What is it that you like about her? I really want to understand why people that like her, like her. Thanks.

  11. scout

    Kathryn, It it would help, you could try typing your response in microsoft word (or your program of choice) where you could see to edit it how you like and then copy/paste into the box when you get it how you like it. I’ve often used that method when filling in online forms.

  12. Kathryn Fenner

    @ scout—Yeah, but then I couldn’t fire it off willy nilly as I am wont! Thanks! I really ought to slow down….

  13. Doug Ross

    I am not staunchly pro Nikki. It really doesn’t matter to me who wins. As long as the same clowns run the State House circus , it doesn’t matter who is in the figurehead governor role.

    The inmates running the asylum love the fact that everyone is focusing on Haley. When she wins they will start whining again about how she won’t work with them to rip off the taxpayers.

  14. Doug Ross


    No, on the Senate level, I’ll vote gladly for DeMint. DeMint can have an influence on future tax policies if the Republicans gain control (unlikely but possible).

    In this state, however, it doesn’t matter who runs for Governor. It’s all about the non-term limited legislators who are elected by fewer than 1-2% of the entire state population. Once in, they pass the pork around and form alliances that serve themselves and their key supporters/contributors. As long as we have that model for our government, we’ll remain at the bottom of the heap in all the important factors like education, economy, poverty, etc.

    What percent of the vote do you think Greene will get? Anyone who votes FOR him as a way to vote AGAINST DeMint should be embarrassed. DeMint is going to win. Abstaining would be better.

  15. Kathryn Fenner

    But DeMint is an insider incumbent–a darling of his party!

    Word is there will be a credible Green party candidate….no final “e”

  16. bud

    I favor huge tax increases for the wealthy. The top marginal rate is the lowest it’s been in decades and should be adjusted up for those at the very top. That would help ease the debt problem without having an undue effect on the driving force behind economic growth, consumer spending. DeMint would thwart efforts to do that.

  17. Doug Ross


    So? He’s also an incumbent who has said he will only remain in office for one more term (two total). That gets a lot of points in my book.

    I wouldn’t call DeMint an insider. He’s a leader of a small faction of the Republican senators who espouse a particular view of government. DeMint isn’t a camera hog like Lindsey Graham who loves the sound of his own voice. He appears to be working on specific policies that are consistent with his philosophy.

  18. Kathryn Fenner

    DeMint can’t get coverage inside the Beltway because he hasn’t earned it, so he goes outside and stirs up the disaffected, previously apathetic all around the country–sounds like he’s not shrinking from publicity….


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