Category Archives: Nikki Haley

On Haley and Sheheen on the ethics bill

This could be a moment to pause and celebrate something. Not the ethics bill that passed the state Senate yesterday (I’ll let Cindi Scoppe tell you about its inadequacies, as she did in this column and this one), but the fact that both candidates for governor are vocal in calling it inadequate:

COLUMBIA, SC — An update to S.C. ethics laws – more than a year in the making – passed the state Senate on Thursday only to be blasted by Gov. Nikki Haley and her likely Democratic challenger for governor in November, state Sen. Vincent Sheheen, as not being good enough.

In particular, the two rivals faulted the proposal for not including an independent body to investigate allegations of wrongdoing by lawmakers.

“Let’s be clear, what the Senate passed tonight wasn’t ethics reform – it’s an income-disclosure bill, and while that’s a positive step forward, it’s really only a half-step,” Haley spokesman Doug Mayer said….

Unfortunately, there’s a sour note in this duet:

“Some reform is better than no reform, but this bill is pretty close to nothing,” Sheheen said, before turning his criticism toward Haley. “In order to have open and accountable government, we need full income disclosure, an independent body to investigate ethics violations, and to finally put an end to the governor’s continued misuse of the state plane and vehicles for campaign activities.”…

In defending Sheheen from criticism from our own Doug, I’ve said that a challenger needs to define what’s wrong with the incumbent, in order to give the voter reasons for replacing that incumbent.

But Doug has a point, and once again, Sheheen’s criticism of Haley is coming across as grating. I don’t know how much of it is the content, and how much of it is just a matter of this tone not being natural coming from Vincent Sheheen. This drip, drip, drip of talking points about Nikki feels like the work of consultants; it’s just not the way Vincent naturally speaks. He’s a more affable, get-along-with-people kind of guy.

It would be far better if Sheheen said something like this:

It may not always feel like it, especially when the Senate drops the ball this way on a needed reform, but we’re slowly making progress in South Carolina. Both the incumbent governor and I are taking the same position, which is that our state politicians need to be held to a higher ethical standard. When those who would lead this state are unanimous in calling for more ambitious reform, that’s progress; we’ve moved in the right direction. Now, you’ve heard me say in the past that the incumbent governor has through her own lapses helped illustrate why we need ethics reform. I stand by that, and the record stands for itself. If I thought she did everything right, I’d be voting for her instead of running against her. But today, I want to thank the governor for her leadership in trying to make sure lawmakers don’t commit such lapses in the future, and are held accountable if they do. Whatever she’s done in the past, she’s taking the right position on this now. And I will stand squarely beside her and help with the heavy lifting of trying to move us further forward, and pass real ethics reform. And if I am elected to replace her, I hope she will continue to support this effort. Because all of us who understand the problem — and I think both of us do now — need to work together to overcome the inertia of the status quo.

OK, that’s a little wordy — if I were writing a statement for him I’d tighten it up — but that’s the tone I think he should be striking…

Haley looking very Chris Christie today. I just hope she doesn’t put on unhealthy pounds

windbreaker

While typing my last post, I was listening to Nikki Haley’s live presser about the weather. Occasionally, I would glance over, and was struck by how the gov had adopted the standard Chris Christie disaster couture, with the dark blue windbreaker and everything. (Although she added a stylish white turtleneck.)

I’m telling myself this doesn’t mean anything. It doesn’t mean she’s going to stop lanes of I-20 going through Kershaw County just to punish Vincent Sheheen or anything. And so far, it doesn’t look like she’s packing on any unhealthy pounds.

Apparently, this has become the national standard for a governor wanting to show that he or she is in Complete Weather Disaster Command and Control Mode. Like a general getting out of Class A’s and into fatigues — or rather, like what that would have meant decades ago, before generals started going to the office every day in BDUs.

Anyway, it just struck me as an interesting visual. Increasingly, we think in visual symbols rather than words, don’t we?

And are we next going to see Gov. Haley walking alongside President Obama, showing him the devastation wreaked on our state? Probably not… although I see she has sought a federal emergency declaration, which I found ironic…

article-snl-1118

Another ‘Walking Dead’ kind of day in the Southland

atlanta

I had already made the comparison between the recent weather-related apocalypse in Atlanta and “Walking Dead,” but I had somehow missed this post providing photographic evidence.

Whoa. It even includes “survivors” shuffling through the wreckage, in images very like those from everyone’s fave zombie TV show. Check it out. The main visual difference is that in the real-life shots, everything is icy, while it seems like it’s always sweltering summer on “Walking Dead.”

And today, I look out around me, and except for the presence of shuffling undead, this could indeed be the end of all we knew. My iPad just chimed to tell me that “Nearly 52,000 SCE&G customers [are] without power.”

Right now, I’m listening to Nikki Haley’s live briefing. She says T-Rav’s Daddy’s bridge is closed again…

Days such as this remind me of a dream I used to have, decades ago. All you Freudians, prepare to take notes…

I would dream that I was in a house that was seemingly miles from any road or sign of life, with deep, deep snow covering everything. Nothing but whiteness could be seen, for miles and miles of softly undulating, hilly landscape. There were no tracks in the snow. Most of all, there was no sound whatsoever. I was seeing all this not so much from inside the house, as I was seeing the completely snow-bound house set in an all-white background.

The memorable thing about the dream, the thing I wanted to go back to after I awoke, was the utter peacefulness of it. There was nothing to do, and nothing to worry about. Worry and stress was a thing of other times and other places. There was just the snow, and the quiet.

All the Freudians are now going “death wish!” But keep in mind this was in the context of me being a newspaperman. I had to go to work no matter what the weather, and go to great trouble to generate boring weather stories. Sitting tight in a warm house looking at the pretty snow was just not a part of my life.

I think maybe the dream just had to do with wanting a day off like other people. Even though I always scorned those wimps who stayed at home because it was a bit slippery outside, on some level I think I envied them. A perfectly pedestrian impulse. Although I’ll admit there was something mystical, something unearthly, about the peacefulness of that dream.

But I digress…

BfKCdFoCYAAoh-u

 

Haley versus Deal on handling the snowstorm

The S.C. Democratic Party rather joyfully brings attention to this item that describes the back-and-forth between Nikki Haley and the office of her counterpart in Georgia, Nathan Deal.

The piece quotes this from the Charleston Regional Business Journal about Nikki’s complaints in a speech to a civic club about the mess in Atlanta:

Haley, who was in Charleston on Tuesday for a speech to members of the Historic Rotary Club of Charleston, said her brother was stuck on an interstate in Atlanta for 27 hours because of the snow and ice.

“While I was trying to fix South Carolina, I was furious at Georgia for not taking care of that,” she said.

She complimented South Carolina’s Department of TransportationDepartment of Public Safety and other law enforcement agencies, as well as the state’s National Guard, for their work during the storm.

“When you go through a storm, whether it’s a hurricane or winter storm, our team stands ready,” Haley said. “I am very proud of team South Carolina and the way they handled the storm.”…

And then it provides this response from the Georgia governor’s office:

Deal spokesman Brian Robinson offered this when confronted with Haley’s jab:

“To say South Carolina did a better job responding to the storm than Georgia is like saying Tennessee did a better job than Louisiana responding to Hurricane Katrina. We experienced completely different weather events.”

Sheheen celebrates passage of restructuring bill

Vincent Sheheen’s Senate office put this release out today:

Sen. Sheheen’s Leadership Delivers Greater Accountability for South Carolinians
After nearly a decade of work, legislature approves Sen. Sheheen’s bipartisan plan to overhaul state government
Today, the House and the Senate both passed the conference report on S.22, Sen. Sheheen’s government restructuring plan. Sen. Sheheen first introduced this bill in 2007. Sen. Sheheen released this statement:
“For nearly a decade, we’ve worked across the aisle to build a bipartisan coalition around my bill to overhaul state government and increase accountability. Today, South Carolinians have results.
“The conference report passed today requires the legislature to hold regular oversight hearings of state agencies to stop the major failures and cover-ups we’ve seen at the Department of Revenue after the hacking, at DHEC after the tuberculosis outbreak at a public school, and at DSS with the alarming rise of child deaths. This overhaul streamlines day-to-day management in the administration to help reduce costs and, most importantly, stops agencies from running up deficits and then asking taxpayers to pick up the bill.
“South Carolinians have had to wait long enough for the accountability they deserve from Governor Haley and her administration. I urge the Governor to sign my bill immediately.”
###

He’s blowing his own horn here, but he deserves to do so. This was his idea, and he’s worked hard to advance it for years.

That bit at the end about the governor, however, was unnecessary and will look pretty silly when she signs it and celebrates it as her own — and more people will hear her than will understand that this was Sheheen’s reform.

Politics is unfair that way.

Haley also being nice to the arts this year

I saw I had an email the other day from the South Carolina Arts Alliance, and I figured, “Well, it’s about that time, when they’re gearing up to fight Nikki Haley’s budget.” I assumed this was the first of a series of increasingly frantic notices, as in 2012 and 2013.

So I didn’t actually look at the release until just now, as I was trying clean up my Inbox. And I saw this:

art advocates

Whoa.

I knew she was seeking to add funding for poor rural school districts, and boost spending on mental health, but now the arts?

I suppose the Democrats will call that election-year opportunism as well, but that raises the question: Is she right? Assume she’s being a complete opportunist here: Is the woman who road to power on the love of the Tea Party right when she now concludes that this is the way to get re-elected.

If so, when and how did this change in the SC electorate occur?

There’s another way for cynics and partisans to read it, of course — that Nikki believes she has the Tea Party sewn up, and she can afford to go fishing in the political center. But from what I’ve seen, if you don’t agree with those folks on everything, they don’t believe in you. Is there any fury like a Tea Party scorned?

The most interesting thing in all this is not what it does to Nikki Haley’s political future, but whether there has been an actual sea change in the electorate. And if there has been, what does it all mean, Mr. Natural?

Restructuring debate has dragged on for decades, plural, not ‘three years’

Plenty of reason to smile, but... she didn't start the reform ball rolling.

Plenty of reason to smile, but… she didn’t start the reform ball rolling.

First, let’s celebrate that the Legislature has now decided to let the actual, elected chief executive be responsible and accountable for another significant portion of the state’s executive branch.

And that they’re setting aside a governing body — the Budget and Control Board — that made a mockery of the separation of powers doctrine. (Although for some of that body’s current functions, the bill will create a new “State Fiscal Accountability Authority,” on which the same legislative leaders retain their seats.)

But while we’re celebrating, let’s retain our historical perspective. From The State‘s story this morning:

“The push to create a Department of Administration has been a three-year fight and getting it over the finish line will be a tremendous win for the people of this state,” Haley spokesman Doug Mayer said, referring to the Republican’s time in office. “This is another example of South Carolina moving in the right direction.”…

If Adam Beam hadn’t included that explanatory phrase, “referring to the Republican’s time in office,” I wouldn’t have had a clue what that “three-year” reference meant.

After all — as I documented at the time — Vincent Sheheen first came to my office to begin pushing this plan (the bill that passed is his) in January 2008. And he came to propose this approach as a way of breaking an impasse that long predated his move, or even his time in office.

I was also a bit puzzled by the headline on The State‘s story, which was “After decade of debate, lawmakers agree to restructure government.”

Now, lest you think that I’m dating this debate to my Power Failure series in 1991, I have to tell you it goes farther back than that. Yes, the really active discussion of the need to restructure our government to, among other things, put the executive in charge of executive functions, started at that time — partly because of our series, and partly because Carroll Campbell took it on as a signature issue.

But, as we documented in the first installment of Power Failure, there had been numerous (if I had a reprint at hand, I could tell you exactly how many) blue-ribbon panels recommending these changes, or changes very like them, since 1945. All ignored, for the simple reason that lawmakers had no intention letting go of their excessive power, or reducing the fragmentation and dilution of what executive authority existed (divided among nine separately elected constitutional officers). It’s not like this was my idea, or the paper’s, or Campbell’s. Lots of folks had been trying to drag the state out of 17th century, which was when the SC pattern of governance began. Originally, it was about putting a class of slaveholding landed gentry in charge of the colony, and then state, without a co-equal executive branch to balance their power. After that class faded from history, lawmakers held onto their power just because.

As Sen. Larry Martin said, this is the most significant restructuring step by the state since the big reform of 1993, which put most executive agencies (although not all, and not the one that oversaw the biggest chunk of state spending — the Department of Education) under the governor. That followed on Campbell’s and The State’s efforts.

The only noteworthy change since then was a year or so ago, when it was decided that in the future — but after this governor has left office — the lieutenant governor will be elected on the same ticket as the governor.

Martin promises more to come, including getting rid of the two most glaring instances of someone being separately elected to oversee parts of the executive branch, bringing the adjutant general and superintendent into the Cabinet.

I look forward to seeing that. In any case, it’s great to see lawmakers finally addressing something from my list of “South Carolina’s Unfinished Business” in my last column at the newspaper.

Nor did he, although he deserves as much credit as anyone currently in office. This is from when he unveiled the plan in 2008.

Nor did he, although he deserves as much credit as anyone currently in office. This is from when he unveiled the plan in 2008.

If Nikki Haley’s playing politics, that’s good news, too

So if Thigpen's right, we're much less likely to see scenes such as this one this year.

So if Thigpen’s right, we’re much less likely to see scenes such as this one this year.

Having trouble finding anything substantive not to like in Nikki Haley’s education and other proposals, some critics are saying she’s just playing election-year politics.

Well, if that’s the case, that’s good news, too. In fact, unless you’re a Democrat trying to unseat her, it’s hard to see where the downside is for you here.

That occurred to me reading the following, written by Schuyler Kropf at The Post and Courier:

Democrats — and even some political talking heads — were quick to point out Haley’s attention to education and mental health could easily be seen as attempts to neutralize her Democratic opposition.

“They must feel it’s a more moderate electorate out there,” retired Francis Marion University political scientist Neal Thigpen said Monday in assessing her administration’s 2014 spending ideas.

Thigpen, who has followed Republican politics in the state for years, said the most obvious political target in her budget is announced Democratic challenger, state Sen. Vincent Sheheen of Camden.

Haley’s camp must see a need in “trying to block him out,” Thigpen added, “and being ahead of him in trying to blunt those issues that he may be able to use.”…

Look again at what Neal Thigpen just said…

“They must feel it’s a more moderate electorate out there…”

If Nikki Haley and her people are looking around them and seeing a more reasonable world than the one that elected them in the Year of The Tea Party, then that’s gotta be a good thing, right?

So, if that’s correct, her speeches this year will be less about throwing red meat to people who hate government, and more about good governance. Which Vincent Sheheen will be doing as well, because he always does that. Which means that no matter which of them is elected, that person will be committed to such basic things as better schools, and better care for the mentally ill.

Which as I say, is a good thing for all South Carolinians…

Nikki Haley’s education proposal looks very promising

UPDATE: Spoke briefly today with Ted Pitts, who said the governor’s proposal was attached to the relevant press release on the governor’s website. Which seems rather obvious, now that he points it out…

Someone complained, sort of, that I didn’t comment on Nikki Haley’s education proposal yesterday. Sorry. I wasn’t sure I knew enough about it, based on the news stories. (I sort of had the same reaction a bunch of lawmakers did. I wanted to know more.)

But now I have a little more confidence than I did in saying this: It looks really good. It addresses one of the most serious problems in SC public education, and does so in a way that I think is politically courageous for a Tea Party Republican.Governor Haley Official Portrait

If you doubt it, look no further than the lame response from Democrats. Vincent Sheheen said essentially, Hey, I’ve had a lot of good education proposals way before Nikki did. Todd Rutherford said, Yeah, but how come we had to wait four years for her to pay attention to education? The state party said pretty much what Rutherford did.

If it looks good to me, and even those with a huge motivation to find fault with it can’t find anything to criticize, it must be pretty good, right?

Here’s why it’s good: The public education problem in South Carolina is, to oversimplify a bit, a rural poverty problem. Normally, what you hear from Republicans of a certain stripe is, “Look at those awful standardized test scores (really, they mean the SAT, because we don’t look all that bad on other measures); they prove that public education is a failure.”

But the truth is, we do know how to do public education in affluent suburbs, where there are sufficient resources and kids come to school ready to learn. Not so much in poorer parts of the state.

One of the nagging problems is that kids who start at the back of the pack and who don’t have a lot of help and support at home are harder to educate. And yes, that can mean “more expensive to educate.” They need more highly skilled teachers — not just those who couldn’t get a job in the ‘burbs — and more support services to catch up.

So, how do you get a state where the real political power resides in the suburbs (in those white districts that vote Republican) to go for a plan that sends more of their tax money to the poor, rural areas?

Well, somebody has to exert some leadership to make it happen.

Which is what the governor is proposing to do here. Good for her, and I certainly hope she succeeds.

Nikki got her gun, and she wants you to know it

Image from Nikki Haley's Facebook page.

Image from Nikki Haley’s Facebook page.

Anyone who has seen her display her unarmed-defense skills may understand why Nikki Haley might want a gun — that is, if they forget for a moment that she has an armed escort, provided at state expense.

But say she didn’t have protective detail. Say she actually felt a need to defend herself.

Why would she brag to the world that she now has a nice, new Beretta 9mm?

See, I wouldn’t. I’d prefer to keep the bad guys guessing. I would neither want to advertise to potential assailants that if they came at me, they’d better use deadly force (and shoot first), or to tell them that I had a valuable item on me that it might be worth shooting me in order to steal.

Nor would I want to let my kids know that I had a handgun, because I’d worry that they’d do what I always did as a kid — find my Dad’s, wherever he’d hid it, and get it out and play with it. (Yes, I always made sure it was unloaded before practicing my quick-draw — something that was easier to do with a revolver than with a semi-automatic, which takes more skill and wariness in order to remember to check the chamber.)

But that’s me. To me, a gun is just a gun. It’s not something I feel I have to flash on Facebook in order to curry favor with a political base…

Haley receives black belt after ‘breaking’ board with hand

Got this from Politico:

You better think twice before messing with Gov. Nikki Haley; she’s a black belt.

On Wednesday the South Carolina governor was presented with an honorary fourth-degree black belt. She was also shown breaking a board with an open-handed punch in a video released by her office.

“I earned an honorary 4th degree Black Belt today! Check out this video,” Haley wrote on her official Facebook page. “We are fans of Tae Kwon Do in South Carolina.”

You know, if my sensei were still around (“Bow to your sensei!“), he might express a bit of doubt about the way that rather gentle heel-of-the-hand tap causing that board to break into three pieces, but I guess the gov has just learned to channel her chi in a particularly effective manner.

Yeah…

We don’t need outsiders calling our governor a ‘clown’

crew

Back in the first few years that I was back here in SC — I want to say it was about the time of the Lost Trust scandal in 1990; in any case, it was a time when we were struggling with some huge problem in Columbia — The Charlotte Observer ran a short, dismissive, truly snotty editorial asking what was up with South Carolina, and comparing us to the Three Stooges.

That was it. There was no serious analysis of the problem, and no recommendation (that I recall) on how to make it better. Just a setup for comparing South Carolina to the Stooges. Ha-ha.

Something crystallized for me in that moment. I had been a longtime admirer of the Observer before I came to work here. But since my return here in 1987, I had noticed that its coverage of my home state had a certain tone to it — a scornful fascination based in a concept of SC as the other; as a vastly inferior other that existed to make folks in that corner of NC feel good about themselves.

I fully realized what had bothered me as soon as I read that editorial. I felt that the Observer couldn’t care less whether things got better in SC, as long as we provided our betters with entertainment. (If I’m correct on the timing, this was at the time that I was conceiving of the year-long Power Failure project analyzing what was really wrong with SC, and offering a specific path to fixing the problems. So I had a markedly different attitude: I cared.)

Anyway, I was reminded of that Three Stooges moment when Celeste Headlee brought my attention to CREW’s second list of the nation’s worst governors. (CREW, by the way, is the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Government.)

For those of you interested in such things, of the 18 governors on the list, only two — Andrew Cuomo and Steven Beshear — are Democrats (Scott Walker makes the list for being anti-union, and accepting contributions from people who are also anti-union — really; those are his “sins”). But I’m less concerned with the fact that CREW doesn’t live up to its self-professed partisan impartiality than the fact that, by publishing a list such as this one, the organization gives the lie to the “responsibility” part of its name.

Of course, our own governor makes the list. And that would be OK, if CREW had some helpful criticism. Here’s what it has to say about Gov. Haley. I won’t bother repeating it since there’s no news in it. She’s been roundly criticized for these things in this space. But I stand today to defend her.

My beef is with the overall way that this list is presented. Someone thought it would be cute to give the list a circus theme. The 18 governors are divided into three groups — the “Ringmasters,” the “Clowns,” and the “Sideshows.”

Nikki Haley is listed among the six “Clowns.”

I’m mystified as to the reasoning behind this equal division into three groups. What, our governor is a “Clown,” but Rick Perry makes “Ringmaster”? Really? If someone forced you to pick one of them as a “Clown,” how could you pick her over him?

Beyond that, there is no evidence provided of her clownishness. I didn’t see anything funny in any of the things said about her. It is simply not a defensible metaphor.

Let me say unequivocally that Nikki Haley is not a clown. She’s a perfectly serious, earnest young woman who governs as well as she can, according to her lights.

She does not deserve to be called a clown.

And if CREW really cared about responsibility in government, it would desist from this kind of immature, dismissive, unhelpful nonsense. This is the kind of destructive thing the political parties do — denigrate and demean and utterly dismiss all with whom they disagree, making it impossible for people wearing different labels to work together toward the common good.

On its About Us page, CREW moans,

Many Americans have given up on our political system, writing off our elected leaders…

Well, you know why? Because (at least in part) of dismissive junk such as this.

If you have something constructive to say, say it. If you have any specific, serious advice to offer the people of South Carolina, we’re all ears — really. Not all of us have “We Don’t CARE How You Did It Up North” bumper stickers on our vehicles (although, admittedly, some of us do). Let’s hear your prescription.

But if you have nothing more helpful to offer than to call our governor a “clown,” then just shut up about it.

Haley’s backing of strong-mayor shows laudable consistency

Still catching up with news from over the long weekend. I was fighting a cold, and did not leave the house from Wednesday afternoon until this morning. Nor did I blog (did ya notice?) or even read news, which might have tempted me to blog, which I did not feel up to (or, as the pedants would have it, up to which I did not feel).

So I’m only now reacting to this:

Gov. Nikki Haley has come out in support of Columbia’s strong mayor referendum, which will be decided on Tuesday, after discussing the issue with Mayor Steve Benjamin.

A mailer explaining her position was sent to residents late this week.

“After talking to Mayor Benjamin, Governor Haley was happy to lend her support,” said Rob Godfrey, a spokesman for Haley, in a statement. “The governor has long believed in restructuring government to produce accountability and efficiency for the people it serves — not just in state government, but at every level of government.”…

Good for her. As you may know, government restructuring is one of those subjects on which our present governor and I agree, since I have advocated the commonsense notion of actually putting the elected chief executive in charge of the executive branch since she was in school.

And I’ve favored a strong-mayor system for Columbia just about as long. The idea arises from the same principle: putting the day-to-day government in the hands of someone chosen by the voters, rather than in the hands of a hired manager who answers neither to the people nor to any single, accountable individual.

So I’m glad Mayor Benjamin reached out to Gov. Haley, and I’m glad she responded so positively and sensibly.

Sheheen camp taking wrong approach on ethics, Haley

I have a limited patience with discussions of public ethics. It would take more words than I feel like writing today to explain all the reasons why, but here’s the simple explanation: I find that too often, in the political sphere, when we speak of “ethics,” we are not talking about right and wrong; we’re merely talking about appearances.

Cindi Scoppe has always had more patience with ethics discussions than I. That’s fortunate, because her patience and diligence has made her highly knowledgeable about the ways that the topic intersects with SC public life.

But even Cindi has lost patience with the way Vincent Sheheen’s campaign is talking about ethics this week. This excerpt from her column today begins with a quote from a Sheheen release:

“Today, Nikki Haley held a press conference to talk about ethics reform in South Carolina,” a news release from his gubernatorial campaign began. “From covering up the Social Security number hacking scandal to flying with campaign staffers in a state owned plane, Nikki is the last person who should be talking about ethics reform.”

Wow.

I suppose that sort of non sequitur makes some sense from a campaign perspective, as it reminds people of our governor’s ethical imperfections. But from a governing perspective — and one of the things that I’ve always admired about Vincent Sheheen is that he cares about governing, much more than the governor has tended to — it is completely wrong.

It suggests that reform should be pursued only by the pure of heart. In fact, our government, as a creation of human beings, must rely on imperfect vessels….

Cindi’s completely right. And she’s right that, while the ethics bill the governor is pushing has serious flaws, it’s better than no bill at all.

All week, the Sheheen campaign and state Democratic Party (mostly the party, now that I go back and look) have been bombarding my inbox with attacks on Nikki Haley’s suitability as an advocate for ethics reform.

Yep, it’s ironic that she wants to prevent abuses she has committed herself, but hey — at least she knows what she’s talking about.

And yes, the attacks on Sheheen for being a small-town lawyer representing clients before magistrates whom he had recommended for appointment are rather absurd and over-the-top. As the Sheheen campaign notes, he is the sponsor of a bill to place the power for appointing magistrates in the hands of the Supreme Court. There is nothing “scandalous,” to cite one word used by the governor’s staff, about him representing clients openly in magistrate’s court, under the laws currently in place.

I am more disturbed that so much rhetoric out of the Sheheen campaign and its allies is about tearing down the governor.

In other words, Doug, I’m moving to your way of thinking. I have defended Sheheen to Doug, saying that when you’re running against an incumbent, you have an obligation to explain to voters why the incumbent should no longer hold the office. This necessity is less obvious to Doug because his more or less default position is to be anti-incumbent, while I expect a challenger to justify the challenge.

One justifies a challenge in two ways: By explaining what’s wrong with the incumbent, and by telling voters why you, the challenger, would do a better job.

Lately, though, it seems the Sheheen campaign is all about the former, and very light on the latter.

To get back to Cindi’s column:

The email went on: “Our state deserves real ethics reform. And we deserve a governor who doesn’t constantly blur the lines to serve political agendas.”

Those are both very good points. But they address two completely different issues.

The first is about what sort of law the Legislature passes — or doesn’t pass — in the coming session. The second is about whom we elect as governor a year from now.

Personally, I’d like to have both. At this point, I think Mr. Sheheen would make a better choice on the “governor who doesn’t constantly blur the lines” thing. And the ethics plan that Ms. Haley is pushing might be our best shot at real ethics reform. In fact, while Mr. Sheheen wants to focus more on correcting other shortcomings in our ethics law, the main provisions that Ms. Haley is pushing are changes he supports.

One of the things I detest about our two dominant political parties is the way they encourage people to attack good ideas just because they come from the other side. The Sheheen campaign seems to be falling into that habit, and should heed what Cindi said at the end:

Yes, we deserve a lot better than the Senate Judiciary Committee’s reform package. But the way to get better is to join with other reformers to strengthen the bill — not to attack the efforts of the person who’s best able to focus public attention on the need for reform.

Don’t make perfection the enemy of the good (this is cracking Cindi up, because she had to say that so often to me, as I was seldom satisfied with half a loaf). Take a mediocre bill, and work to make it better.

And cut it out with the drip, drip, drip of negativity.

Have YOU been harmed by the DOR hacking?

Or do you know anyone who has?

I raised this question, sort of indirectly, earlier — I was questioning the value of Vincent Sheheen trying to get everybody outraged over the hacking, which broke a year ago, when we don’t know whether anyone has been harmed. I was reacting to this passage in an AP story:

It’s unknown if anyone’s identity has been stolen because of the hacking. A Federal Trade Commission attorney has said the selling and trading of stolen information makes it virtually impossible to trace an identity theft case to any particular security breach.

But since that was Friday afternoon, and things I post on Friday afternoons tend to drift off into a vague place, only a few comments were offered, none of them answering the question above.

So, let me know, straight up — do you know of anyone who has good reason to believe he or she was in any way harmed by the breach?

I know someone who has had a terrible time from having her identity stolen, although it happened well before any of this, so I don’t think it’s related.

Someone filed false tax returns for 2011 using my next-to-youngest daughter’s Social Security number and other info. It was a huge hassle getting it all straightened out.

Then, just over a week ago, she got this seriously threatening letter from the IRS saying that she had ignored their previous notices (she had received no previous notices) and that if she didn’t pay more than $7,000 RIGHT NOW her property was going to be seized.

There was no way she had at any time owed the IRS $7,000.

Supposedly, that is now straightened out, also. A guy at the IRS named “Mike” — no surname that I know of — said just to tear up that letter; it was all a mistake. OK, so we’re, um, somewhat reassured. (I assume that if there are any more threats from the IRS, we’re just supposed to say, “Fuggedaboudit. Mike says it’s cool….” We’re counting on Mike being the guy behind the guy.)

I don’t know whether that particular incident is related to the earlier theft or not. I think it is. I’m somewhat confused by the fact that my daughter was out of the country last month, and her purse was stolen — with passport, driver’s license, everything. She had to get a provisional passport from the embassy to get back into the country.

Oh, yes; one other thing — last week I got a notice from Adobe saying that when I bought PhotoShop Express from them several months back, my information was stolen. They want me to sign up for monitoring on their dime, I believe. I guess I’d better get on that; I’ve been busy the last few days and had managed to shove that to the back of my mind…

Unfortunately for Vincent Sheheen, I don’t blame any of these incidents on Nikki Haley.

My point is, people’s identities do get stolen, and it does lead to hassles. So has anyone had any such hassles that they know or merely suspect were related to the Department of Revenue hacking?

And if not, isn’t that sort of odd?

The big weakness in Sheheen’s hacking-outrage strategy

To mark the anniversary of the hacking scandal (remember that? turns out that most South Carolinians had their identities stolen due to the fecklessness of the state Department of Revenue), Vincent Sheheen put out a press release giving incumbent Gov. Nikki Haley hell about it:

The hacking was a horrible and preventable disgrace. First, under Nikki Haley, South Carolina’s Department of Revenue failed to enroll in the most basic protection services available that act as a first step in protection for other agencies and states around the nation. Second, a key cyber security director position at her Dept of Revenue was left vacant for a year while Governor Haley rewarded her campaign staff with other jobs they had little experience for in the administration. Third, the person in the cybersecurity position had quit prior to the hacking due to frustration that his repeated warnings about the vulnerability of the Dept of Revenue went unheeded by Nikki Haley and her closest advisers.
The hacking was a tragedy, and it was preventable. With different leadership and real accountability, we will do better. South Carolina could have been better prepared to withstand the hacking attempts, like other states, and not become a target because of the major holes in our cyber security that were ignored by the Haley administration despite multiple warnings.
By covering-up the hacking for 16 days, Nikki Haley failed the test of leadership. After learning that millions of people in our state had been exposed to great risk under her watch, Nikki Haley’s first instinct was to cover it up. She waited more than two weeks, hired a lawyer, lined up her public relations firm, and covered her tail before deciding it was the right time to let the people she was elected to serve know they were at risk. Then, when she did finally break the news, the story was ever-changing as she flip-flopped back and forth trying to paint a rosier picture. First she said nothing could have been done to prevent it. That wasn’t true. Then she said that no businesses were affected. That wasn’t true. Then she said no children were affected, that wasn’t true. …

And so forth. The State called Sheheen’s letter on the subject “scathing.” Chris Haire of the Charleston City Paper called it “devastating.” (Of course, he also said there’s no way Sheheen is beating Haley next year, which would mean the gov is likely to be less than devastated.)

But there’s just one problem with this strategy for tapping voter ire on this subject — I’m seeing a distinct lack of voter ire.

Maybe y’all have seen something else; I don’t know. If so, report in. Let me know about it.

But my impression is that most of us have been waiting around for a year to see whether this thing is going to have any impact on our lives.

We’ve been waiting for the other shoe to drop. Or maybe even for the first shoe to drop, depending on how you read the metaphor.

The end of Seanna Adcox’s story for The Associated Press sort of explains why we’re not all seizing pitchforks and torches and marching toward the governor’s mansion:

Sheheen touted his work in helping create an Identity Theft Reimbursement Fund in the state budget. The largely symbolic program calls for the state to reimburse expenses that an identity theft victim incurs because of a state breach. Someone seeking money would have to apply to the state treasurer’s office.

As of Tuesday, no one had, according to Treasurer Curtis Loftis’ office.

It’s unknown if anyone’s identity has been stolen because of the hacking. A Federal Trade Commission attorney has said the selling and trading of stolen information makes it virtually impossible to trace an identity theft case to any particular security breach.

Yeahhhhh. OK. Well….

If a bunch of us start feeling the effects of this ID theft, and think we have reason to blame it on negligence by the Haley administration, then maybe the Democrat will have some resentment to tap into. But so far, not so much.

So what’s Sheheen’s plan B?

Democrats’ poll says it’s 44-40, with slight edge for Haley

Emphasis on the “slight,” according to the Democrats. Just about the same as the 3.53 percent margin of error:

COLUMBIA — S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley holds slight edge on Democratic challenger Vincent Sheheen in their 2014 gubernatorial rematch, according to a poll done for the Democratic Governors Association.

Haley, a Lexington Republican, leads 44 percent to 40 percent, according to the poll from Clarity Campaign Labs.

Sheheen, a Camden lawyer, is within the margin of error of plus or minus 3.53 percent of tying the race. He lost by 4.5 percentage points to Haley in 2010….

They’re pretty excited about it. I ran into James Smith this morning, who said this is where the 2010 contest was just before the general election, which as you recall, Gov. Haley won with only 51 percent of the vote, and that in the big year for the Tea Party, her natural base.

The thinking, among Democrats, is apparently that if Vincent Sheheen had had just a little more time to keep gaining in 2010, he could have won. And this time, he’s got the time.

Sheheen campaign manager Andrew Whalen lost no time touting the poll in a fundraising email:

This is big! Earlier today, a poll released fantastic news for our campaign. This race is essentially tied.

Now we have proof of what we knew all along: we are poised to win this race!

Vincent is neck-in-neck with Haley, and Nikki Haley’s approval numbers are deep into the incumbent Danger Zone at only 40% statewide…

I think he meant “neck and neck,” but you get the point.

Rep. Smith said he felt like this was as good as it’s going to get for Haley.

Well, we’ll see. She’s quite a campaigner, and in SC, any member of her party has a sort of home-field advantage. But if this poll is at all reliable, it looks like it will be competitive.

Sheheen campaign objects to use of governor’s mansion

Mansion

I got this release from Andrew Whalen with the Sheheen campaign today.

Of course, if you “sign the petition” expressing your indignation at Nikki Haley using the governor’s mansion for fund-raising, the Sheheen campaign will have your contact info. So they can solicit you for campaign funds. And stuff.

Anyway, here it is:

Nikki Haley is at it again. She and the South Carolina GOP are shamelessly selling access to the Governor’s mansion grounds. This time literally. That’s just wrong.

In a few weeks, Nikki and her friends will be opening the gates and hosting an “exclusive reception” on the grounds — not for official business, but to raise cash to support her re-election.

Listen, if this doesn’t sit right with you, you’re not alone. Seems to me that using the Governor’s mansion grounds for a campaign fundraiser, at best, violates the spirit of the state’s ethics laws. If you agree, add your name to our online petition and tell Nikki Haley that you are tired of her using government property for campaign purposes. Add your name here >>

This isn’t the first time Nikki has blurred the lines of what’s legal in South Carolina – flying campaign staff on state planes, using state vehicles to pick up out-of-state campaign cash, hiding income. The list goes on and on. We deserve better. South Carolina deserves someone who doesn’t have to cover things up or blur lines to preserve their political career.

If you agree it’s time for new leadership in South Carolina, add your name to our online petition right now.

Thanks for standing with us,

Andrew

Campaign Manager
Sheheen for South Carolina

Also, there’s a blue “contribute” button at the bottom of the email. Just in case…

‘Power Failure’ problems still plague South Carolina

Yesterday, at Jack Van Loan‘s gathering for Steve Benjamin, the mayor at one point — in talking about the strong-mayor system — invoked “Power Failure.”

He does that frequently when I’m around, which causes me to think he does it to flatter me. But he always does it relevantly. For those who don’t know what “Power Failure” was, a brief description that I put together recently:

South Carolina is different. It took me about three years of close observation to understand how it was different. I realized it toward the end of the incredible summer of 1990, when one-tenth of the Legislature was indicted, the head of the highway patrol resigned under pressure after helping the head of the local FBI office (which was investigating the Legislature) with a DUI, the president of the University of South Carolina resigned after a series of scandals, and… well, there were two or three other major stories of malfunction and corruption in state government, all at the same time. Under my direction, The State’s political reporters stayed ahead of all the competition that summer, and broke at least one story that even the feds didn’t know about. All this fed into my determination to explain just why our state government was so fouled up. There were reasons, and they were reasons that were peculiar to South Carolina, but they were invisible to most citizens.

I proposed to The State’s senior management that they let me undertake a special project that would let the voters in on the secret. They agreed, and turned the resources of the newsroom over to me to use as I needed them for the “Power Failure” project. Over the course of a year, 17 multi-page installments and more than 100 stories, we explained why ours was the state government that answered to no one. And we set out a blueprint for fixing it.

That helped lead, the following year, to a major government restructuring, creating a cabinet system and giving the governor actual control over a significant portion of the executive branch. It didn’t go nearly far enough. Only about a third of the government, measured by share of the budget, answers to the elected chief executive. But it was a start…

As it happens, I had occasion today to look back at a reprint of the series, and I continue to be struck by how relevant it remains.

The series was about much more than the fact that the state’s executive branch was governed by a bewildering array of boards and commissions that answered to no one. It was about more than making the governor accountable. It went into problems with local government, the judiciary, and other aspects of government at all levels.

The sad thing is that while that reprint is old and yellowed, being 21 years old, so much of what it described remains unchanged.

I was reminded of that in this morning’s paper. We see that a Nikki Haley ally is planning to run against Glenn McConnell for lieutenant governor next year. This is portrayed as a sort of dress-rehearsal for 2018, when the governor and lieutenant governor will run together on a single ticket. That is a tiny, tiny movement toward the “Power Failure” recommendation that we stop electing all these constitutional officers separately from the governor.

Meanwhile, the bill to replace the Budget and Control Board with a Department of Administration answering to the governor hovers out there, and maybe, maybe it will actually be enacted in the next legislative session. Nikki Haley has been pushing hard for that since entering office. Rival Vincent Sheheen has been pushing for it longer than that, and he still is doing so. From a Sheheen op-ed last week:

Government restructuring is Job No. 1

BY VINCENT SHEHEEN 

Posted: Thursday, October 3, 2013 12:01 a.m.

Post & Courier·

  • It’s time to take another giant step in reforming South Carolina’s state government to improve accountability for the hardworking people of our state.

Over the last few years, South Carolina has gone backwards in so many areas — we’re now one of the toughest places in the nation to earn a living and achieve the American dream, while our government has failed on its most basic functions. But one of the places where we are moving forward is in modernizing our state government in an effort to improve accountability.

Last year, I introduced S. 22, a restructuring bill to overhaul and reform South Carolina’s legislative and executive branches. I worked across the aisle to ensure the bill speedily passed the Senate with overwhelming bipartisan support. Then it was altered and passed late in the session by the House of Representatives.

A conference committee has been appointed to hammer out the differences in anticipation of the upcoming session. So now we have an exciting opportunity to reconcile the two versions and make history for our state….

Actually, you should probably go read the whole thing, at the Post and Courier.

The reprint is old and yellowed, but we’re still struggling along with the same problems. Still, let’s celebrate what we can. I for one am thankful that both Haley and Sheheen back reform, and that maybe this one change is about to happen. Beyond that, there’s a lot more work to do.

If speaking ability carries the day, then Haley beats Sheheen

Gov. Nikki Haley, speaking to the Columbia Rotary Club last week.

Gov. Nikki Haley, speaking to the Columbia Rotary Club last week.

Reports this morning noted that Nikki Haley has amassed three times as much in campaign funds as has her once-and-future opponent, Vincent Sheheen.

But she enjoys another advantage that I suspect could be even more important: She’s a much better public speaker.

She’s energetic, articulate, engaging and sincere. And those things count with an audience. Especially a live one, as I was reminded when I heard her speak to the Columbia Rotary Club last week.

Meanwhile, Vincent is… Vincent. He’s articulate; I’ll give him that. But his comparatively lollygagging presentation keeps him from connecting the way she does. As I’ve said before, he comes across as a good, smart guy whose attitude is, “Sure, I’ll step forward and be governor, if no one better does.”

By contrast, there is zero doubt in the mind of any listener that Nikki Haley wants it. And that counts. Oh, Americans may give lip service to wanting to elect regular folks who aren’t “career politicians,” who can take public office or leave it alone. But they don’t give their votes to candidates who don’t care enough to court them with every ounce of energy they can muster.

And Nikki Haley does this. She certainly connected well with the Rotary crowd last week. I was reminded yet again of how charmed I was by Ms. Haley in her first couple of runs at public office. She makes a very good first, second, and several more impressions. It’s only after awhile that it starts to bother you that she persists in saying things that… aren’t… quite… true.

Henry McMaster, who has established himself as the best sport in South Carolina with his unstinting support of Nikki since she took from him the nomination that likely would have been his without her meteoric rise, gave her a strong introduction at Rotary. He spoke in glowing terms of how much better off he saw South Carolina as being than it was a few years ago.

And there wasn’t much to fault in what he said, beyond the implication that Nikki Haley deserved the credit. For instance… He lauded the fact that the state’s three major research universities work together these days rather than engaging in wasteful competition. And that is a good thing. But it started years before anyone ever conceived of Nikki Haley being governor. It started when Andrew Sorensen was president at USC (and has continued through Harris Pastides’ tenure). Sorensen formed a partnership with Clemson President James Barker and MUSC President Ray Greenberg. They started going to the Legislature together to talk budgets, rather than clawing at each other for funding. Here’s a column I wrote in February 2006 about the then-startling spectacle of seeing Sorensen and Barker meeting with House Speaker Bobby Harrell at the same time.

Anyway, the state of affairs Henry described was accurate, and worth applauding.

But then, when Nikki Haley got up to speak — and as I say, impressed the audience throughout — she twice spoke of her proposal to go to a system of “accountability funding” for higher education. But she suggested that we need this so as to end the current situation, in which each university is funded according to which of them has the best lobbyist.

No. That describes the situation we had a decade ago. The governor’s funding formula might be well and good — I don’t know enough to critique it at this point — but the problem she’s prescribing it for does not exist. The problem in state funding for higher education is that it has been reduced so much that it’s in the single digits, as a percentage of universities’ operating costs.

That inaccuracy seemed to go right by the audience, as did other things she said that sounded good — she always sounds good, to me as well as to everyone else — but weren’t quite as grounded in reality as a serious observer would like them to be.

And if you’re not a “professional politician,” or a dedicated student of what happens at the State House, or someone who works in the complex field of higher ed funding in this particular case, this stuff just blows right past you. She comes across as smart, informed, dedicated and caring.

And until Vincent Sheheen is able to project those same qualities with much greater gusto, he’s going to be left behind.

I tried shooting some video of her speech last week, but the sound was terrible. You can get a taste of her delivery, however, if you turn it way up. If you’d like to hear her whole speech, it’s here at the Rotary site. The governor’s speech starts at 22 minutes in.