A political war between Gov. Nikki Haley and House Speaker Bobby Harrell, R-Charleston, heightened on Friday amid continued allegations from the governor that Harrell is the reason the House Ethics Committee is taking a second look at charges that Haley lobbied illegally while she was a House member.
“I’m governor now whether people like it or not,” Haley told reporters Friday. “Let me do my job. All this political mess is just getting in the way of letting me do my job.”
The first-term governor alleged Harrell was giving orders to the Ethics Committee staff and making the case political.
Harrell fired back by calling it an untruthful distraction.
“The Governor is misleading the press and trying to distract the public from what is a very serious matter," Harrell wrote in a statement to the media. "These are major criminal violations of the law that Governor Haley has been accused of committing. Given the Governor’s claim that there is no validity to these charges, combined with the extreme measures and false accusations now being employed by Governor Haley — One can only wonder why? Why to this level? What does Governor Haley have to hide?"
The pushback Friday came on the heels of a similar effort on Thursday by Haley to point the finger at Harrell. The ethics committee is again looking into whether Haley illegally lobbied on behalf of both Lexington Medical Center and Wilbur Smith Associates, two lobbyist principals that employed the future governor when she served in the House.
“It is totally inappropriate for any member outside of the committee, including the speaker, to force himself into this process and order the committee to do anything,” Rob Godfrey, Haley’s spokesman, said Thursday. “This is supposed to be a process where law and rules — not politics — determine the outcome.”
After those Thursday comments from Haley's office, and more allegations on Friday, the House Ethics Committee issued its own statement.
“House Speaker Bobby Harrell has been attacked with several accusations surrounding the complaint filed before the House Ethics Committee pertaining to Governor Nikki Haley. The Members of the House Ethics Committee strongly believe that the record needs to be set straight.
“Speaker Harrell did not attempt to influence me or try to influence me as a member of the House Ethics Committee in the matter regarding Governor Haley in any way,” said the statement, which served as a general pronouncement from all six committee members.
Harrell said that Haley also alleged that her lawyers were not allowed to meet with lawyers for the House Ethics Committee.
"The truth is, the Governor’s lawyers did in fact present those documents directly to counsel for the Ethics Committee," Harrell said. "In fact, we now know that the Governor’s legal team - in a 30-minute meeting with lawyers for the Ethics Committee - were given an opportunity to fully discuss these documents. All of this took place yesterday and to assert otherwise is not the truth."