Was Haley's $127K bill from Paris job recruitment trip worth the cost?
Mon, 05 Sep 2011 17:51:54 GMT —
COLUMBIA (WACH, AP) -- The bills from Gov. Nikki Haley's weeklong trip to Europe in June total more than $127,000 and are still coming in. But the governor returned home with two agreements with foreign employers that are in the works, not done deals as Haley has said.
The Post and Courier of Charleston reported that the $127,000 represents spending by the Commerce Department. Department Secretary Bobby Hitt says the agency covered many but not all of Haley's expenses.
Items such as stays at five-star hotels, French cuisine, room service, VIP access and a party thrown for executives at an historic Paris townhouse were billed to the state, according to the Post and Courier article.
During a news conference in Charleston, Haley said the state "closed two deals" while abroad. She referred further questions to the Commerce Department.
But Hitt says two agreements involving foreign employers are just in the works.
Critics, like South Carolina Democratic Party Chairman Dick Harpootlian, call the trip an inappropriately timed junket.
"At this point you don't have to go pitch them. They will come here," Haprootlian told the newspaper.More Paris Air Show News... State leaders attending Paris air show Columbia council approves Benjamin trip to Paris Air Show
However, Hitt countered by telling the paper that's not how it works and that the trip was a vital link for attracting foreign employers.
"You can recruit employers without staying in a five-star hotel," Harpootlian fired back.
Gov. Haley responded to the critics Wednesday morning defending the trip.
Haley stands strong in an opinion piece the Post and Courier published as a chance to show off the state and plant seeds for future business deals.
Haley says taxpayers saved money because BMW picked up the tab for most of the travel in Europe and state economic development groups picked up part of the costs.
The South Carolina Democratic Party released a video on YouTube Tuesday criticizing the trip. The clip is titled "Where in the World is Governor Nikki Haley?"SC Dem. Party/YouTube
The Post and Courier also notes that South Carolina has had a presence in the annual Paris show since 2005.
Other high profile names in attendance, 27 in total, included Sen. Hugh Leatherman of Florence, Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin along with staff and security to the governor's office and Commerce Department.
Columbia City Council approved to spend $6,000 to send Benjamin to Paris.
What do you think about the expenses chalked up to the state for this trip? Was it an appropriate use of spending to attract future employers, or a waste of taxpayer dollars during a tight budget? Vote in our poll and leave a comment below to weigh in.
(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)