Gov. Haley campaign finances under ethics probe

The State Ethics Commission has opened a public inquiry into Gov. Nikki Haley's campaign finances.

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WACH, AP) -- The State Ethics Commission has opened a public inquiry into Gov. Nikki Haley's campaign finances during her run for the office she now holds.


allegations are detailed in a complaint

obtained Tuesday by WACH Fox News and confirmed by Commission Executive Director Herb Hayden. A hearing has been set for July 18.

The inquiry was opened after state Democratic Party staffer Bridget Tripp filed a complaint accusing Haley of failing to maintain proper records of donors' occupations and not disclosing addresses for six campaign contributors.

Campaign contributors' addresses are needed if their identities need to be verified.

Tripp filed the complaint last July according to documents from the State Ethics Commission. Tripp is the Democratic Party's director of outreach.

"We have to use ethics complaints and lawsuits and other means to get people to focus on the illegalities and irregularities of the Republican leadership of this state," said state Democratic Party chair Dick Harpootlian.

Haley's attorney Butch Bowers called the complaint a political stunt.

This is not the first time Gov. Haley has been implicated in an ethics case. Last month, a circuit judge dismissed a lawsuit accusing Haley of breaking ethics laws while she was a legislator, saying such issues should be handled by either state ethics officials or a legislative panel.

Haley has said she

would not waive confidentiality

to any legislative ethics investigation.

In response to these most recent ethics allegations, the Haley for Governor Camp released a brief statement Tuesday indicating they have been working with the ethics commission to deal with the campaign finance reporting errors.

"Of the more than 7,000 donors to the campaign, we were unable to find the addresses for two of them, donations totaling $326.78," said Maria Crawford of Haley for Governor. "We've worked with the State Ethics Commission, and we have agreed to treat those contributions as â??anonymousâ?? and transfer those contributions to the Children's Trust Fund."

The statement did not address the allegations about donors' occupations not being properly recorded. Ethics law does not require candidates to report that information, but it must be made available upon request.

This probe is the second straight Ethics Commission investigation into a sitting South Carolina governor.

Republican Mark Sanford paid a state record $74,000 in fines after the commission looked into his use of campaign cash, state planes and first-class travel after Sanford revealed his affair with an Argentine woman.

Last month, former Lt. Governor Ken Ard, also a Republican, resigned his post before pleading guilty to campaign finance fraud. The state attorney general's office said Ard created a "fictitious campaign" by giving his own money to a network of donors and then funneling the cash back into his campaign account, creating the false impression of a groundswell of financial support for his run at the office.

State democrats say the trend of Republican leaders in the ethics crosshairs is a disturbing trend.

"It's a troubling trend and it's bad for South Carolina," said Harpootlian. "The people of the state need to realize that the R next to their name doesn't mean 'right person.' They're Republicans, they're sticking together and they're taking the state in the wrong direction."

The July 18 hearing in the Haley case will address seven allegations concerning the governor.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)