Nikki Haley, the Sarah Palin of South Carolina?

Most folks outside of the Palmetto State never heard of Nikki Haley until Sarah Palin endorsed her during last fall’s gubernatorial election. 

Being anointed by the former governor of Alaska as a “kindred spirit” and fellow “mama grizzly” brought the South Carolina Republican Tea Party favorite a good deal of national attention and was a factor in her successful campaign for the state’s highest office which she often referred to as “The Movement.”

Governor Haley has only been in office a short time, but with Republican majorities in both branches of the state legislature, she is locked and cocked to transform South Carolina into a right-wing, gun-toting, God-fearing Shangri-la of lower taxes, transparency, limited government, private property rights, Christian values, policy over politics, free markets, individual liberties, and states rights.

It’s supposed to be even better than the shining beacon of conservative policy success achieved by the previous Republican governor with majorities in the House and Senate.

I’m hoping for the best, but Governor Haley is already being plagued by the same kind of “cheap attacks and distortions” which proved troublesome during Governor Palin’s truncated term of office in Alaska.

There’s the brouhaha about the number of campaign donors receiving appointments to state boards or commissions.

For example, Governor Haley recently removed Darla Moore from the University of South Carolina Board of Trustees and replaced her with Tommy Cofield.

Cofield is an obscure personal injury lawyer and Moore is a nationally recognized pioneer for women in banking.

After graduating from the University of South Carolina in 1975, Mrs. Moore worked for the Republican National Committee in Washington, DC.

She received a master’s degree in business administration from George Washington University and joined Chemical Bank’s training program in 1981.

During the 1980s,  Mrs. Moore took over companies in bankruptcy and made them profitable. 

By the 1990s, she had become the highest-paid woman in the banking industry.

In 1991, she married Richard Rainwater and was named president of the private equity firm Rainwater, Inc, in 1993. 

Fortune magazine named Moore one of the 50 Most Powerful Women In Business in 1998 and 1999.

She is also well-known for her philanthropy. 

In 1998, she gave 25 million dollars to the business school at the University of South Carolina in Columbia, which was renamed the Moore School of Business. 

She founded the Palmetto Institute, an independent non-profit organization focused on increasing the wealth of every person in South Carolina, in 2002. 

In 2003, she gave 10 million dollars to the School of Education at Clemson University.

And in 2005, she gave an additional $45 million to the Moore School of Business.

But she did not contribute to Governor Haley’s election campaign.

Mr. Cofield was on his high school golf team, won several writing awards in college, and married his high school sweetheart.   

He is a board member for Make-A-Wish of South Carolina. 

In addition to being active in the “church life” of the Lexington Baptist Church, he is on the executive board of the South Carolina Baptist Convention.

And he contributed to Governor Haley’s election campaign.

Considering all the promises during the campaign about ending politics as usual, replacing Moore on the USC Board of Trustees with Cofield strikes some as “kind of sketchy.”

And there’s also the mystery over Governor Haley’s past application for a $110,000 per year fundraising gig at the Lexington Medical Center which appeared to inflate how much she made working for her parents’ clothing store. 

While Governor Haley’s 2008 application indicated she earned $125,000 as the account for her parents’ business and wanted the same amount for the fundraising position created for her by the hospital’s CEO, her tax records for 2007 show that she made only $22,000.

Governor Haley denies filling out the application and has hinted that someone at the hospital did it.

Hospital officials deny that.  They say that she’d been offered the job and told on the phone to fill out the online application so she could be entered into their system for payroll and benefits.

These kind of what the executive director of the South Carolina state Republican Party has called “cheap attacks and distortions” also plagued the original “mama grizzly” as Alaska’s governor before she resigned.

I hope that Governor Haley isn’t offered a tempting book deal or a reality show and, like Mrs. Palin, decide to leave the trying scrutiny of public service before the conclusion of her term for more financially rewarding opportunities in the private sector. 

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