According to Palmetto Public Record, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley — a rising Republican star whose name has been tossed around as a possible vice presidential running mate for Mitt Romney — is under federal investigation and could even be indicted as early as this week.
The Department of Justice has apparently been investigating Haley in relation to the Sikh Religious Society of South Carolina, which is run by her father, Dr. Ajit Randhawa. According to Palmetto Public Record, the organization has been sued at least 5 times, alleging that it stiffed contractors out of almost $130,000 for the construction of a new temple. Haley was in charge of the temple’s finances through at least 2003, and Palmetto Public Record’s sources suspect that Haley’s indictment would focus on what became of the missing money.
Haley’s legal mess only reinforces the sense that high-profile Republican vice presidential candidates are deeply flawed. Bob McDonnell has been politically wounded by his support for an invasive ultrasound bill, and Marco Rubio was revealed to have attended a Mormon church as a child — raising concerns that he shouldn’t share the ticket with Romney.
This wouldn’t be the first scandal connecting Haley and her father’s temple. Since last March, the Internal Revenue Service has been investigating whether the temple illegally supported Haley’s campaign for governor. The temple sent out newsletters promoting Haley’s candidacy and held a fundraiser on her behalf, both of which would be a violation of the organization’s tax-exempt status.
Haley has also faced scrutiny in the past for listing her income on a job application as being over $100,000 more than her federal tax returns indicated.
If the scandal compels Haley to leave office, she would also not be the first member of her administration to be forced out by legal problems. Former Lieutenant Governor Ken Ard resigned earlier this month amid a corruption scandal, leaving Glenn McConnell — who once described efforts to remove the Confederate flag from the South Carolina state house as “cultural genocide” — as next in line for the governorship.
Should Haley be indicted, it would put an immediate end to the speculation that she could be added to the Republican ticket as Mitt Romney’s running mate. Yesterday, Republican strategist Nicole Wallace told Buzzfeed that Haley is “the most effective surrogate Romney has” and that she “should be picked [as the vice presidential nominee] for a broader purpose, a messaging purpose.” That message would go out the window if Palmetto Public Record’s report is confirmed.