By Robert Kittle
An agreement over the costs of Gov. Nikki Haley's security detail when at campaign events was supposed to settle any questions, but has instead raised new ones.
She signed the agreement earlier this month with the State Law Enforcement Division and State Ethics Commission.
The agreement, for the first time in writing, spells out when a governor will reimburse the state for some of the costs of her state-provided security detail.
For example, if the governor is at a campaign-related event out of state, her campaign would pay for travel, lodging, meals, and any overtime for her security detail. But, according to the agreement, "wages and salaries are not reimbursable because they are not an additional cost to the state."
Her campaign says that, since the agents who are part of her security detail are already being paid by the state, there's no additional cost to taxpayers whether they're protecting her at an official state function or at a campaign function. But since overtime would be an additional expense, her campaign would pay for that.
But John Crangle, state director of the watchdog group Common Cause, says, "We don't think the taxpayers should have to pay those costs, that those costs ought to be paid by the governor's campaign committee." He says even though the agents in her security detail are already being paid by the state, it's not necessarily true that they have to be protecting her even when she's not at a campaign event.
He points to the fact that Bureau of Protective Services officers are paid to protect the Governor's Mansion and the Statehouse, so she shouldn't need a separate security detail in those places. And he says there's no requirement that a governor have a security detail at a campaign event, so if she wants one she should reimburse the state for the cost of her state-provided detail or hire a private security company.
He also questions whether the State Ethics Commission even has the authority to enter into the agreement, since it's not mentioned in the state budget proviso that requires the security detail. That proviso says, "The State Law Enforcement Division, the Department of Public Safety, and the Department of Natural Resources shall provide a security detail to the Governor in a manner agreed to by the State Law Enforcement Division, the Department of Public Safety, the Department of Natural Resources, and the Office of Governor."
Crangle says not requiring the Haley campaign to pay the entire cost of her security detail violates state law. Section 8-13-765 of the state Code of Laws says, "No person may use government personnel, equipment, materials, or an office building in an election campaign. The provisions of this subsection do not apply to a public official's use of an official residence."
Crangle argues that having SLED or DNR agents, who are government personnel, work as her security detail at campaign events violates that law.
But SLED spokesman Thom Berry says that's not true because the members of the governor's security detail are not working for her campaign or doing anything campaign-related; they're simply protecting her. "That's been something that's been provided for all governors," he says of the security detail. "They don't do political campaigning. They don't do any political campaign work. They're there to provide security for the governor."
State Ethics Commission director Herb Hayden says, "Historically, it appears that there has been some confusion with the interpretation of the necessary requirements for a protection detail for the Governor and the equally necessary prohibitions contained in the state's campaign finance statutes with regard to the use of state assets in an election campaign. This MOA (Memorandum Of Agreement) was a collaborative effort between the three agencies to ensure that there is a clear understanding of the statutory requirements regarding the use of the Governor's protection detail while attending campaign related events. This agreement will serve as a benchmark for all future campaign activities and bring clarity to an obvious area of confusion."
Crangle agrees that it's an area of confusion. "I think the state law probably needs to be clarified, to make it very clear that when she's involved in campaign-related activities, her campaign pays the taxpayers 100 percent of the associated costs. That would make it very clear that taxpayers are not subsidizing her campaigns," he says.