A new list of the worst governors in America has South Carolina’s Nikki Haley as 10th-worst, but her office is quick to point out that the list was put out by a liberal-leaning group with a history of attacking Republicans.
The list was compiled and released by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, or CREW. It says Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal is the worst governor in America. North Carolina’s Pat McCrory is 12th-worst. Both are Republicans. In fact, 16 of the 18 governors on the list are Republicans, with Kentucky’s Gov. Steven Beshear and New York’s Andrew Cuomo the only Democrats. Beshear ranks 7th-worst, Cuomo 14th.
Gov. Haley is listed as a “clown”, a designation given to the governors in the second group of six. The six worst are called “ringmasters”, while the third six are called “sideshows.”
According to the report, “Her inclusion stems from: (1) an investigation into her private-sector work while a member of the state legislature; (2) pay-to-play appointments; (3) accepting free trips on the private planes of donors, appointees, and people with business before the state; (4) flouting of transparency standards; (5) misuse of federal funds; and (6) advocating for new voter identification restrictions.”
The investigation into her private-sector work is about the House Ethics Committee’s investigation into her income reporting and other possible ethics violations while she was a member of the state House of Representatives. It is true that she was investigated, but, as even the report explains, the House Ethics Committee cleared the governor.
The accusation of cronyism includes the fact that 26 of the 59 people that she appointed to state boards or commissions were donors to her campaign, and that she appointed a campaign contributor to the USC Board of Trustees to replace Darla Moore. She also replaced six of the seven members of the Department of Health and Environmental Control board. Four of the six were campaign contributors.
It’s also true that she took free flights on private planes provided by donors and appointees. The governor had listed the values of those flights as the cost of comparable commercial flights. But in response, in November 2011, the State Ethics Commission unanimously agreed to change the way politicians value the cost of a private flight. Now, politicians must use the actual cost to operate that private plane multiplied by the hours of flight time.
The report also criticizes the governor for not releasing emails between her and her staff. In March 2012, she worked with the state Department of Archives and History and agreed to start preserving emails with historic value. The report notes, though, that press and watchdog groups worry that the new policy still gives the governor’s office too much discretion about which records to keep and which to keep and which to destroy.
Finally, the report says Gov. Haley is guilty of partisan politics for taking federal money to study whether the state should set up its own health care exchange, then pressuring members of the study panel to reach the conclusion that the state would not do it. But a federal investigation found no misuse of funds.
Haley was also criticized in the report for supporting the state’s new Voter ID law.
Digging into who CREW is reveals that it was co-founded by Norman Eisen, a law school classmate of President Barack Obama’s who worked on his presidential campaign and later in his administration.
The current executive director of CREW, co-founder Melanie Sloan, previously worked for Democrats John Conyers, Charles Schumer and Joe Biden.
That background on the authors of the “Worst Governors” report led Gov. Haley’s spokesman, Rob Godfrey, to say, “These are recycled old charges, many of which have been dismissed. Nikki Haley led the successful fight for on-the-record voting, so laws are no longer made in secret in our state, and she is leading the fight for the toughest ethics reforms in state history. Senate Democrats are doing everything they can to block those ethics reforms, but Governor Haley will prevail for the good of our state.”
You can read the entire CREW report at here.