Haley promises more flight disclosure than Sanford

Jan. 26, 2011 at 10:01 a.m.
Updated Jan. 25, 2011 at 7:26 p.m.

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - In a marked departure from her predecessor, Gov. Nikki Haley is promising to reveal information about her use of state and private planes, including a recent trip paid for by a campaign donor.

"The governor will be open about how she travels," Haley spokesman Rob Godfrey told The Associated Press. "The flight log will include travel on the state plane, private flights, and commercial flights that are related to her position as governor."

Two weeks after Haley was elected, she - along with her husband, staff, one of their spouses and a state protective agent - jetted to San Diego on a donor's plane for a meeting of the Republican Governors Association, which had endorsed her. State ethics experts say there was nothing improper about the trip.

The disclosure of the flight, in response to an AP request, comes months before an April deadline would require it. The tab for the November trip was $19,656, according to per passenger costs Haley provided. Godfrey said Haley will make a flight log readily available to reporters showing business-related travel details.

Haley has long made transparency - especially related to lawmakers' votes - a cornerstone of her agenda and the assurances about her travels show a notable departure from predecessor Mark Sanford.

In 2010, Sanford paid $74,000 in civil fines for 37 charges involving state-funded travel in pricey airline seats, using state aircraft for personal and political trips, and improper reimbursements.

An AP investigation prompted probes by the attorney general, Ethics Commission and a House panel that considered impeachment.

The AP investigation came after Sanford skipped the state for several days to rendezvous in Argentina with a woman he later called his soul mate. The affair wrecked his marriage and derailed his political fortunes.

The AP investigation also discovered 35 flights Sanford took on private planes that he did not list on state ethics forms or campaign reports. The flights discovered on Sanford's calendars documented trips to political functions, sporting events with supporters and, at times, family vacations.

The former GOP governor justified his failure to disclose the flights and who paid for them by saying that they were gifts from longtime friends and not related to his office. But Herb Hayden, the executive director of the State Ethics Commission, said his investigation yielded no documentation of those long-standing relationships.

"We had all those trips that he kept saying they weren't disclosable because, you know, these were people who didn't give them to him because of his position, but they gave them to him because they were personal friends," Hayden said. "But there was no record of him ever flying around with them before he was elected."

An investigation of those flights ended without fines when Sanford agreed to disclose them by amending previous economic disclosure forms.

Hayden said Haley only has to report her private flights on annual economic disclosures due in April and not on quarterly campaign finance reports. Had the November flight been tied to her campaign, reporting would have been required, Hayden said. He notes Haley's campaign ended with the election.

Haley previously disclosed numerous flights on campaign finance reports, particularly in the weeks before the Nov. 2 election as she scrambled to raise cash and reach voters in what became a surprisingly close race.

Haley's RGA flight was provided by entrepreneur Raj Mantena. He and his brother, Raju, and their wives all gave Haley's campaign $3,500 donations in the weeks before the election.

Federal Election Commission records show Raj Mantena also donated $10,000 to the South Carolina Republican Party in October.



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