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Friday, December 14, 2018

Federal watchdog group calls for investigation into Nikki Haley’s acceptance of ‘gifts’ while in office

Nikki Haley allegedly accepted private flights from GOP donors while in office.

Image Credit: Julie Jacobson/AP

A day before Nikki Haley announced her resignation as United Nations ambassador, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a federal watchdog group, called into question her acceptance of free private luxury plane flights from GOP donors. Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) is asking the State Department’s Inspector General to investigate seven flights Haley took while in office.

Haley listed the private plane flights under “gifts” when reporting her 2018 financial disclosures, but CREW is questioning if these private plane flights, which were provided by three South Carolina businessmen who supported her “gubernational’ campaign, are eligible for exception from ethics regulations as she claimed, Open Secrets reported.

“By accepting gifts of luxury private flights, Ambassador Haley seems to be falling in line with other Trump administration officials who are reaping personal benefits from their public positions,” Noah Bookbinder, CREW executive director, said in a statement. “Our ethics laws are clearly written to prevent even the appearance of corruption and improper influence.”

Haley claimed that her personal relationship with the businessmen makes the free private flights exceptions from ethics regulations. But Bookbinder said that all three of the businessmen – Jimmy Gibbs, Smyth McKissick and Mikee Johnson – have “contributed to GOP officials directly and through their own companies” and two personally volunteered during Haley’s 2013 re-election campaign for governor of South Carolina, Open Secrets reported.

While the total value of the seven flights is unknown, CREW said in a statement that it “estimates they were worth tens of thousands of dollars to Ambassador Haley.”

“Federal ethics regulations prohibit employees from soliciting or accepting gifts given because of the employee’s official position. They also direct employees to consider declining otherwise permissible gifts if they believe a reasonable person would question their integrity or impartiality as a result of accepting the gifts. Ambassador Haley asserted that each flight qualified for an exception to the rules for gifts based on personal relationships with the donors. It is not clear, however, that the personal relationship exception applied to these gifts. As discussed below, the exception was inapplicable if the businesses of the individuals Ambassador Haley has identified as the donors covered any part of the cost of the flights or if her relationships with those individuals were professional or political, rather than personal, in nature. In any event, whether or not the exception applied, it appears Ambassador Haley failed to live up to the ethical values expressed in the regulations.”

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