Nikki Haley dumps Darla Moore: A plain case of old-fashioned naked patronage

It’s really hard to keep up with all the petty outrages (both “petty” and “outrageous” — yes, that seems about right) that our new young governor keeps pumping out.

I’m a busy guy — working, blogging, trying to grab a little sleep at night — and sometimes find myself momentarily out of the loop. Particularly when there are so many far more important things going on in the world. Let’s see, the Japan earthquake, Qaddafi (I’ve gotten to where I just spell his name with the first combination of letters that my fingers hit, so I hope that suits) moving to crush the rebellion while the world is distracted with Japan, Saudis intervening in Bahrain and people getting killed… And sometimes you have to put even that aside, and do other stuff…

So when I finish my Virtual Front Page and close the laptop, I sometimes don’t see any new developments until 7ish the next morning. Which is why I was taken aback at the very first Tweet I saw this morning:

Nettie Britts @nettie_bNettie Britts

Explain Darla Moore to me.

I replied, “Well, she’s this rich lady from South Carolina who tries to give back to her home state. That’s the Twitter version, I guess…” And I went on to breakfast. There, the grill room at the Capital City Club was buzzing with what I didn’t know about, since I hadn’t sat down to read the paper yet (don’t ask me why it wasn’t on when I was doing the Virtual Front Page yesterday; maybe it was and I just missed it). The state and community leaders weren’t going, “Did you hear about Darla?” It was more like, “What do you think of the news?” Period.

Yep, this stuff happens to me, too. Not often, but sometimes.

So I sat down, and I read the paper. And I Tweeted this out:

Brad Warthen

@BradWarthen Brad Warthen

Nikki Haley dumping Darla Moore is classic case of naked, arbitrary exercise of patronage power….

You can congratulate me later for having gotten a link, an editorial point, “Nikki Haley,” “Darla Moore,” and “naked” into the Twitter format (with 14 characters of room left!). Let’s move on to the substance.

And the substance is… well, what I just said. It just doesn’t get any more blatant, plain, slap-in-the-face, I-don’t-care-what-you’ve-done-for-our-state-or-this-institution-I’ve-got-my-own-guy than this. Just bald, plain, take-it-for-what-it-is. Although I do have to hand it to Haley staffer Rob Godfrey for managing to twist the knife a bit with this bit of sarcastic insouciance:

Asked why the appointment was not announced, he said: “Given that there are over 1,000 appointments to boards and commissions the governor can make, we never intended to have a press conference for each one.”

Because, you know, Darla Moore isn’t any more important than that.

At the Cap City Club this morning, one of the regular movers and shakers made a rather naive and innocent remark (sometimes movers and shakers can surprise you that way), honestly asking, “How do you just brush aside someone who’s given $100 million to South Carolina?” (Yeah, I know she’s only pledged $70 million to USC and $10 million to Clemson, according to the story, but I guess he was rounding.)

I replied, patiently, here’s what Nikki Haley would say to that (were she brutally honest, of course): “She didn’t give ME a hundred million dollars. Tommy over here gave me $3,500. I don’t understand the question.” That’s Tommy Cofield, by the way, a Lexington attorney.

People who are not movers and shakers (and who in fact have a sort of visceral aversion to movers and shakers) can say some naive things, too. Over in a previous comment, our own Doug said “Are we assuming that Sheheen wouldn’t have replaced anyone he didn’t like?”

To that, I responded once again with the painfully obvious: “No, Vincent would not have replaced Darla Moore with an unknown, minor campaign contributor in such a prestigious post. If that’s what you’re asking.” Of course, I should have added, “without a reason.” By that, I would mean a valid reason, one that takes South Carolina’s and USC’s legitimate interests into account, one that is not just arbitrary.

Oh she GAVE what I suppose some folks (probably including Doug, believing as he does that there is nothing so deleterious to society as experience and commitment to the public weal) will regard as a reason: “As is the case with many of our appointees, the governor looked for a fresh set of eyes to put in a critical leadership position…”

That’s it.

And if you are one of the people who takes Nikki Haley at face value, as her supporters tend to do, and you don’t know or care about Darla Moore or the University of South Carolina — you just like to cheer on your Nikki — that will suffice. In with the new, out with the old. She will feel in no way obligated to explain what was wrong with Darla Moore’s service on the board, or to cite any of the exciting new ideas that her appointee brings to the table that were previously missing. No one will expect that of her; it probably wouldn’t even occur to her to think about it. The governor will skate on this with these people — this is something that is core to her whole approach to politics ever since she transformed herself into the darling of the Tea Party in preparation for her run for this office for which she was so unprepared.

This WORKS for her. She skates on this, just as — with the voters she cares about — she will skate on apparently having told a prospective employer in 2007 that she was making $125,000 a year when she was telling the IRS that she made $22,000. This will matter not. People are just picking at her. The nasty, powerful, status quo people — those people who hang out at the Capital City Club! — are picking at Nikki because they’re mean, you see. (By the way, on the “petty” vs. “outrageous” spectrum, the thing on the job application is more the typical “petty” violation of her alleged principles that we have come to expect; the Darla Moore thing, dealing as it does with the leadership of such an important state institution, is more of an “outrage.” If you’re keeping score.)

She will not only skate, but her supporters — or at least, this is what the governor banks on — will continue, in spite of all evidence, to see her as a champion of transparency, a reformer, a nemesis of “politics as usual” and patron saint of Good Government. Which just, you know, boggles the mind if you’re the sensible sort who thinks about things.

That’s the plan, anyway. And that’s why she did this, and really doesn’t care if you, or the university, or the business community, or Darla Moore don’t like it.

60 thoughts on “Nikki Haley dumps Darla Moore: A plain case of old-fashioned naked patronage

  1. Rob

    The thing is: whoever is governor, why should they have to just give up their right to appoint the “Governor’s Appointee” to the USC Board just because a predecessor appointed Darla Moore to that position? Even if we agree that Darla Moore should be on the board, why can’t she be placed on the board like everyone else save two – by the General Assembly appointing her. Hell, since the powers-that-be love this woman, why not just legislatively carve a permanent position for her on the Board just for being Darla Moore…

  2. martin

    What I keep asking everywhere is: did Cofield represent her in the LMC severence deal?

    That would certainly seem to elevate his importance since he’s one of them dirty, rotten lawyers, like what she ran against.

  3. Brad

    Rob, you’re being obtuse. The governor excercised her “right” here; no one would dispute that.

    The issue is whether this is an abuse of that power. The issue is whether it was a wise decision, in light of the governor’s responsibility (as, you know, GOVERNOR) to act as a good steward of her state. Is replacing Darla Moore with Tommy Cofield in the best interests of South Carolina, and if it is, PLEASE explain why, because the reasons are not apparent to anyone familiar with the situation.

    This assumes, of course, that one cares about the best interests of the state, and whether elected officials act in that interest. Which I do. Whether the governor does is in grave doubt.

  4. Brad

    Oh, by the way, if you’d like to see additional coverage of this appointment that the gov’s spokesman indicated wasn’t worthy of any special note, here are some MSM sources:

    — The (Charleston) Post and Courier

    — WLTX-TV (Columbia)

    — WIS-TV (Columbia)

    — WACH-TV (Columbia)

    — WYFF-TV (Greenville), and elsewhere, via AP

  5. Phillip

    I don’t get why Nikki Haley or the Legislature should have very much say at all as regards who sits on the Board of Trustees or any issue in which they tell USC what to do, since state funding is now down to less than 11% of USC’s budget. USC is becoming a state university in name only.

  6. bud

    This is what troubles me about this situation. I remember a day when stuff like this was done but the governor or his staff would go to great lengths to craft some sensible justification for the move. Like say, “Cofield’s broad experience in dealing with issues of higher learning made this a sensible choice”. Or “Ms. Moore has served in this capacity for a considerable length of time and it is my opinion that it is in the best interests of the state to rotate new trustee members into that role.”

    I’m not saying those reasons are correct or even that they would be perceived as correct but at least in times gone by some justification would be offered. But not with Ms. Haley. She simply makes the change and the perception be damned. I guess she knows she will be running for VP or even POTUS in 4 years anyone so she doesn’t really feel bound by protocol.

  7. Doug T

    I would risk saying that if Sheheen was Governor, the news stories about his goings on would be of very different in nature.

  8. Rose

    I think the way in which she notified some 2000 or more people (according to reports) all at once that they were being replaced is part of the issue as well. Correct me if I’m wrong, but aren’t such replacements done as terms expire, in order to have a more orderly transfer of the position? Isn’t that why there are set terms for such appointees? Disregarding the set procedure on such a large scale seems rather coup-like, though that’s probably too strong a word. But it does toss in an aspect of instability into the process.

    And Brad, I think your tweet boils down the situation perfectly.

  9. Brad

    Yep. That’s the irony here, as you so plainly see, Ralph. On account of the fact that she is all about representing herself as the OPPOSITE of that. The astounding thing, of course, is the number of people who accept that, unquestioningly.

  10. Brad

    Here’s another wonderful irony to contemplate (they abound, in the World of Nikki Haley):

    She just unceremoniously dumped the one greatest archetype in South Carolina of an entrepreneurial businessWOMAN (the very thing that Nikki Haley styles herself as, even though the image doesn’t hold up all that well when you examine her resume) who has made her mark on the world.

    Out of the way, Distinguished Trailblazer…

    I mean, for those of you who are feminists or otherwise get into all that Identity Politics stuff that our doughty governor and her defenders don’t want us to forget about. (Categories that do not include yours truly, but I try to keep other people’s enthusiasms in mind as well.)

    Ironies within ironies within ironies…

  11. Rob

    “Rob, you’re being obtuse.”

    Oh, I just love it when self-important bloggers insult their commenters. And to have it come from the “smartest guy in South Carolina” is quite an honor.

    OK, you can go back to over-analyzing Nikki’s next cough or sneeze.

  12. Brad

    Rob, I did not mean to be unkind; I was being descriptive. I thought it was legitimate to describe a comment as “obtuse” if that is what it was, to the best of my ability to tell. What I was saying, of course, was that you were conveniently ignoring certain salient points in order to plead ignorance of what I was saying was wrong with this. My saying you were being “obtuse” is my way of saying I give you credit for being smarter than that.

    If it makes you feel any better, I’ll call your latest comment “acute,” as it pains me to be accused of abusing my interlocutors. I apologize for any perceived unpleasantness on my part.

    As for “Nikki’s next cough or sneeze”… really? Is that what Darla Moore and her contributions to our state amount to? Because that’s what we’re talking about here. That’s what the governor has dismissed so cavalierly. With, come to think of it, LESS than either a cough or a sneeze of viable justification.

  13. jfx

    It seems that every time Nikki coughs or sneezes nowadays, the phlegm she ejects is anything but transparent. I hope she will shed some light on this bizarre medical condition in her forthcoming memoirs.

  14. Libb

    As she continues her Shermanesque march across SC folks need to realize that this Governess is not interested in a 2nd term. Every breath/action she takes (w/ apoligies to Sting)is all about her ascension to the national stage. And I don’t believe her highness really cares what we SC commoners think.

  15. Mark Stewart

    A few things come to mind:

    1) This is exactly not the way a Governor who believes her position ought to gain more executive control should be seen exercising said power.

    2) Regardless of her donations, the handling of the architecture award probably wasn’t Darla Moore’s best moment. Yet, this was probably the kind of thing that simply needed a little ego-management out of the public glare; not a guillotining. That she most certainly did not deserve, personally or civically.

    3) If Nikki truly had aspirations of national political office she would be cultivating connections at stratas above/beyond the realm of a country lawyer. No offense to the guy, but I believe this appointment made in this manner actually diminishes his reputation.

    4) The situation with Nikki’s job application is NOT a small thing. It may not be a compelling political issue but it does clearly demonstrate, yet again, the lack of character which she has repeatedly revealed. Either she lied to a prospective employer to justify an income that she would never have otherwise been able to justify, or else she lied to the IRS. I would guess that she lied to both.

  16. Norm Ivey

    The USC Business School is named for her, right? And somehow she’s not appropriate to serve on the Board of Trustees? You’re right, Brad. In this circumstance, the governor must justify the change.

  17. Doug Ross

    Wouldn’t it be a fair statement that Darla Moore purchased her spot on the board just like Cofield did? She just paid more for it.

  18. Steven Davis

    Darla Moore has “pledged” $70 million. How much of that has she actually contributed? I can tell the Highway Patrol salesman that I’ll pledge $5 gazillion dollars when they solicit over the phone, but if I don’t pay a dime it’s just talk.

    Also, the governor appoints one person to the Board of Trustees. Moore has been on the Board since 1999. Is this appointment meant to be a lifetime appointment?

  19. Burl Burlingame

    I’m seeing this pattern all across the country among the recently elected “new” conservatives. They believe they serve only those who elected them, not the entire community.

  20. Brad

    I don’t feel so bad about my tardiness on the story now, since I just got this a few minutes ago from Columbia Regional Business Report: “Haley removes Moore from USC board.”

    But I will say that they did a nice, succinct job in the lede of their story putting this into some perspective: “Gov. Nikki Haley has removed the namesake of the University of South Carolina’s business school from the university’s board of trustees.” Yup. That’s what she did.

  21. Steven Davis

    How is this an “abuse of power”? Did she do anything illegal? Is this position like a SC Supreme Court Justice where it’s a lifetime appointment? Has any other governor unseated an appointed Trusttee?

    How much money an appointee has pledged and/or paid to USC isn’t a requirement to be appointed to the BOT.

  22. Steven Davis

    For the record:

    Having been labeled a troll who has also been accused of using many names on this blog, I’m not Rob.

    Not that I don’t 100% agree with his statement… just saying.

  23. Steven Davis


    Damn it Brad, now I have to break out my dictionary again to figure out if I’m being insulted.

    Can you take this down a couple flights to regular man talk?

  24. Brad

    No, he’s not “Rob.” He’s “Michael P./Fred/Luke/William Tucker,” but he’s not Rob.

    As he says — for the record…

  25. Steven Davis

    Burl, it’s not just conservatives… I can name three Democrats who were appointed positions by the Obama administration who weren’t qualified for the position they now hold. Inez Tenenbaum, Anton Gunn and Mignon Clyburn. I’m sure there are more.

  26. Steven Davis

    Norm, there are institutes, schools, centers, etc. across USC and others around the country that are named for people who “pledged” but never followed through. It’s more of an embarrassment to the university to retract the name than it is to just live with it. Moore has reportedly pledged $70 million dollars but does anyone know how much she’s actually paid toward that $70 million? Because she has not contributed $70 million to USC.

  27. Lynn T

    Steven Davis states that “How much money an appointee has pledged and/or paid to USC isn’t a requirement to be appointed to the BOT.”

    Actually, it is not a requirement, but trustees of virtually any not-for-profit organization are usually expected to be generous donors, unless they were explicitly recruited for other useful reasons.

  28. Ralph Hightower


    I agree with your assessment. Guvernot Nikki Haley won by the slimmest of margins, 51%, and she appears to be catering to the minority in the GOP, the Tea Baggers.

  29. Doug T

    Nikki getting ready for the National Stage? Give me a break.

    But then again, I didn’t think she had a snowball’s chance of being gov.

  30. Steven Davis

    “not a requirement” or “usually expected”… so if I don’t give millions I have no chance at ever becoming a Trustee, unless appointed by a governor. Isn’t this the opposite of what people keep asking for… diversity? How diverse is it if the Board is nothing more than a group of millionaires who graduated from the school?

  31. Steven Davis

    Ralph, if Sheheen had won and replaced the governor’s only appointment with one of his selection would this still be viewed as it is with Haley?

    In any election, it doesn’t matter if you win by every vote or by one vote. The margin in an all or nothing competition is a moot point.

  32. Mark Stewart

    Maybe if Darla Moore had been a church group offering to step in and do what SC government could not find the resources to do things might have turned out differently here…

  33. Brad

    OK, since Steven keeps asking this, even after it’s been thoroughly dealt with, I’ll try once more, as I did earlier with Doug…

    The issue here is not whether it is up to the governor, as governor, to make a decision about that particular seat on the board. It is. OK?

    The issue here is whether, in her exercise of that power, the governor made the right decision in replacing Darla Moore with Tommy Cofield. Was it wise? Was it responsible? Was it good stewardship? Was it in the best interests of USC, or more to the point, of South Carolina? Did she go about it in the best way? Is the reasoning she gave sufficient and persuasive? Does such reasoning demonstrate that she is placing the broader interests ahead of her own?

    Or did the governor in fact demonstrate a shocking disregard for this important state institution and the role that it plays in South Carolina?

    These and many other considerations are legitimate, even compelling, subjects for a political discussion, and those are the kinds of things we’re talking about here.

    Just so we’re clear. I just thought I’d better explain that in case anyone else is confused.

  34. jfx

    Nikki just bumped an accomplished entrepreneur and philanthropist, in favor of a portly crony lawyer with a bad goatee?

    I’m going to cross-file this one under “bad business”, “bad stewardship”, AND “bad goatee”.

  35. Doug Ross

    USC needs Darla Moore to serve as the Sugar Momma for Innovista (i.e. the Hydrogen Economy Economic Engine).

    And I’m guessing Bud would be 100% against her because:

    “Moore worked for Chemical Bank in New York, where she fine- tuned her command of debt financing and the business of bankruptcy. After a string of successes, Chemical Bank paid Moore a record amount, more than any woman in banking. She was promoted to the position of managing director at Chemical, and she accepted the same title for a shift to Manufacturers Hanover Bank. ”

    According to Bud, that makes her one of those people who doesn’t deserve to keep her money and spend it as she pleases. Better to tax the heck out of her and let the government spend her money.

  36. Burl Burlingame

    And to bring up another irrelevant and irrespective question, is Gov. Haley performing as if she’s the governor of South Carolina, or as if she’s the governor of South Carolina teabaggers?
    Playing solely to your base disenfranchises the rest of the citizenry. What’s best for everybody?
    “Steven Davis” may not agree with Obama’s choices in appointed positions, but — judging by his posts above — he will vigorously defend Obama’s right to make such appointments.

  37. Barry

    As a USC alum, this move is quite confusing.

    Godfrey said that Haley wanted fresh eyes on USC’s board.

    Darla Moore’s reputation on the board is one of asking the tough questions that most of the board won’t ask. From everything I have read about her style, she brings a business like approach to the board – a board already full of attorneys.

    Governor Haley blew an opportunity here. She could have invited Ms. Moore for a sit down meeting, and then announced she was renominating her to the board. She could have used Ms. Moore’s position as a positive for her, Ms. Moore, and USC. But she didn’t. She replaced her with yet another attorney.

  38. Lynn T

    Steven, I noted in my comment that some board members are recruited for reasons other than the expectation of donations, expectations that are usually based on a history of previous donations. Adding diversity to an otherwise very homogenous board might be such a non-financial reason. However, on the whole, it is true that non-profit board members are expected to contribute generously and to get others to do so as well. I don’t have the kind of money that is often expected myself, and I’m happy to serve in other ways.

  39. Steven Davis

    If the problem is too many attorneys, why does the legislature keep voting attorneys onto the Board? Blaming Haley for “adding one more” doesn’t make any sense… were there just the right number of attorneys on the Board before Haley made this appointment?

    Burl, usually Brad deletes any post I make when I call another member out, so maybe he’ll make an exception since you called me out. Yes Obama has every right to appoint anyone he wishes to positions, just like Haley’s choice it’s obviously clear Obama appointed people with no experience in positions they’re currently residing in… he made Anton Gunn a director, Anton Gunn has never worked or supervised an organization more than 2-3 full-time people, but he was Obama’s SC campaign manager. I know as much about consumer safety as Inez Tenenbaum knew before being appointed to her current position. Mignon Clyburn has been riding daddy’s coattail ever since her smalltown newspaper failed, which apparently makes her qualified to be appointed to the FCC board. Are all of these smart appointments?

  40. Steven Davis

    jfx wrote, “: “Nikki just bumped an accomplished entrepreneur and philanthropist, in favor of a portly crony lawyer with a bad goatee?”

    So your beef is primarily concerned with his appearance. It appears so from this comment. I suggest you contact him and give him some of your fashion tips.

  41. Steven Davis

    Lynne T. – I’m sure if Darla Moore is set on being a permanent member of this Board she will use her ties to the state legislature to bump off the person who resides in her district. Which member currently resides in Texas???

  42. Mark Stewart

    I looked at the Board of Trustees of the University; maybe this appointment doesn’t really matter after all – Darla Moore was definitely the odd woman out in the group.

    No offense to any of them personally, but this collection of (largely) attorneys wouldn’t find seats on the board of a small, private college of national rank.

    Is this collection of political appointees the best this flagship university can muster to guide it forward? While the state may only provide 11% of the school’s funding; its politicians clearly have got a hammer-lock on the school’s leadership.

    Dreadful, just dreadful – from an outsider’s perspective.

  43. Doug Ross


    Use your real name and Brad will probably be more lenient.

    I’m not concerned about having my opinions associated with my name like some people are. I’ve never suffered any backlash after several years of posting… but then I’m not in a position where I have to work with or eat meals with the movers and shakers in Columbia. I’m just a peon who doesn’t have to kiss any butt.

  44. Steven Davis

    Mark – Now you know why this is really no big deal. Moore was one vote out of 20 old codger Trustees who have run in the same social crowd since the roaring 20’s. With this leadership, USC will never move up from where it is currently. Their dream of being a Tier 1 research university is just that… a dream.

  45. Steven Davis

    Doug – I would consider it, but it’s obvious in your job that you don’t immediately report to people with the political agenda and thoughts of bud like I do.

  46. Jackie Perrone

    It’s going to be a LONG four years. Make that a LONG LONG 12 years, since we have to date back to the arrival of Haley’s predecessor to mark this trudge. Not sure I’m young enough to wait around for the next aspirant.

  47. Brad

    Doug “Peon” Ross is a Made Guy on this blog. He was even a made guy on my OLD blog. I’ve explained that before. He gets leeway.

    But he knows there are limits, particularly when it comes to what you say about other people — particularly the other people who hang out here. There’s a basic understanding of a modicum of civility. We can have fun, state strong opinions — but not in a way that tears down others in a way that they don’t want to hang around. It’s bad for business.

    All of that said, if any of my crew, made or not, steps out of line, I’ll whack ’em. It’s not a democracy. It’s my blog. They know that. I’ve disallowed comments by Doug, Kathryn, and whomever else you might think gets special treatment. People who want it another way should start their own blogs; nobody’s stopping them.

    And yeah, those people who DO stand behind their opinions with their real names get more leeway than others do, period. They’re allowed to get a little more rowdy. Outta respect. But even that leeway is not unlimited.

  48. Doug Ross


    You’re right. I rarely come across people in my work life or personal life who think people who work hard and make a lot of money are the problem with America.

  49. bud

    But people who work hard and make a lot of money are not necessarily the same thing. Frankly the biggest problem (at least with our economy) in America today is the vast disparity in wealth between the top 1 percent of Americans and the bottom 20%. That wealth is not the result of hard work so much as it’s the result of luck, often by way of inheritance or business cunning that bears little resemblance to actually contributing to the value of the nation’s economy. The best way to improve the economic health of our country today would be to increase government spending so as to hire more people thus enabling many in that bottom 20% to be able to make a living. And I’d pay for it with a large tax on the wealthy so that the deficit doesn’t get out of hand.

  50. miller

    For decades, USC’s business school has shone in its international division. Where it is less than mediocre is its overall ranking in undergraduate business. Bloomberg has USC ranked 92nd and Clemson 71st. Of course, our neigboring states outrank us by a mile. Good thing we have that football team as a source of pride.

  51. Steven Davis

    Interesting comment that I heard today by a very reliable source. That Moore missed many more Board of Trustee meetings than she attended. All this screaming to keep her on the BOT when she doesn’t appear to have any interest in showing up for meetings.

  52. Barry

    @ Steven

    She didn’t attend all of the meetings. No one does that.

    I have heard she joined many of the meetings via conference call though.

    She’s not an attorney like most of the board. She’s not comfortable sitting around all the time.

  53. Pat

    @ Steven – I read somewhere that she video conferenced with them at times and that her interaction with the board was to the point and very business like. As a member, she would still get advance notice of items on the agenda and receive minutes of the meetings. I would expect on critical items, she would make certain her input was received. If the board is stacked full of lawyers, it would help if it had more diversity – and someone who was civic minded and less political. I guess we’ll see, right?

  54. Mab

    Steven —

    Better late than never, I explain:

    Nikki Haley missed a lot of meetings (or whatever legislators call them) and see where it got her? The Governor’s Mansion.

    I do give Darla Moore a pass on missing so many meetings based on Barry’s explanation above. She is not a lawyer or legislator, so as is the approach of other normal people — avoids meetings until all else fails.

    Yay Darla.

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