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.