Haley office defends $231K spent on Paris air show trip

Governor Haley attends the Paris Air Show in June 2011.

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WACH, AP) -- South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, economic development officials and state agencies spent more than $231,000 on a trip in June to the Paris Air Show and to Germany.

A final tab for the visit released Thursday shows eight economic development alliances around the state contributed $64,000. That helped lower the tab covered mostly by the state Commerce Department to $157,000.

Critics haved called the European trip nothing more than a taxpayer-funded vacation, and as details on the bill for that journey have been trickling out over the past month, the noise hasn't died down.

However, the Haley administration says it will all pay off pointing to the fact that the governor is constantly recruiting jobs for the state.

On Wednesday, Governor Haley celebrated a record-setting $1.2 billion investment in the state by Bridgestone Americas, Inc. that will create 850 jobs by 2020.

But, the financial figures coming from Bridgestone aren't the ones some Haley naysayers are focusing on.

"She thinks she's the queen. That's why she's going to Paris and having cocktail parties." said SC Democratice Party chair Dick Harpootlian."She thinks she's Marie Antoinette. This is a state small enough to where you can actually go meet people and talk to people and resolve problems."

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A $105,000 chalet was the biggest single expense at the Paris Air Show. It was used as a meeting hub and to rub elbows with companies the state wooed. A reception cost $30,000.

The governor says she met with at least a dozen firms during the european trip and her office is standing by the merits of the economic junket.

"She expects more job announcements in the future from her economic development trip to Europe, and she believes such efforts pay off handsomely for workers and taxpayers in our state," said Haley spokesman Rob Godfrey.

Haley's travel and meals cost nearly $6,900 and she traveled with two staff members and a security detail of two that added $15,700. The State Law Enforcement Division covered the protective detail's $5,100 bill.

Not everyone is downplaying the importance of the European journey. Earlier this month, the South Carolina Economic Developers' Association applauded the governor and the Department of Commerce for this summer's European outreach.

Officials with the group say it would have been a mistake to miss the Paris Air Show, considering that Boeing, the new 787 Dreamliner, and the aerospace giant's new North Charleston facility had industry insiders buzzing in France.