Nikki Haley’s resignation from her position as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations on Tuesday overshadowed a Monday report from watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) that called into question Haley’s acceptance of a series of free private luxury plane flights from three South Carolina businessmen and GOP donors.
Haley listed seven private plane flights in the “gift” section of her 2018 financial disclosure, claiming an exception from ethics regulations by claiming she has a personal relationship with the South Carolina residents who provided the flights.
CREW sent a letter to the State Department’s Inspector General to investigate whether the gifts were eligible for such an exception, noting all three men supported Haley’s gubernatorial campaign at one point.
Noah Bookbinder, CREW executive director, said the free flights saved Haley significant amounts of money compared to what she would have spent on private flights.
“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,” Bookbinder said in a statement. “Our ethics laws are clearly written to prevent even the appearance of corruption and improper influence.”
A spokesperson for CREW on Tuesday said the organization doesn’t have any information that would lead it to believe Haley’s sudden resignation was related to the call for an ethics investigation.
The three South Carolina businessmen mentioned in the letter are Jimmy Gibbs, Smyth McKissick and Mikee Johnson, and all three have contributed to GOP officials directly and through their own companies.
The report notes that McKissick’s company — Alice Manufacturing in Pickens County, S.C. — gave $32,000 in support of Haley’s gubernatorial campaigns, directly and through South Carolina nonprofit organization The Movement Fund.
McKissick has given more than 100 individual contributions to GOP candidates and causes — including $12,600 in individual contributions to Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) — and his company has given $83,700 to Sen. Lindsey Graham’s campaign (R-S.C.).
Gibbs, founder of Gibbs International — a textiles manufacturer and equipment dealer in Spartanburg, S.C. — has made nearly 50 contributions to GOP candidates since 1989, including seven contributions to Graham, ranging from 2001 to 2015 and totaling $13,400. He also gave $10,000 to the Republican National Committee in 2004 and $1,750 to then-Presidential candidate Donald Trump in 2015.
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Mikee Johnson, former CEO of Cox Industries — an Orangeburg, S.C. wood treatment company that recently sold after 66 years of family ownership — has been less active as an individual contributor. He has given to GOP causes a handful of times, including three contributions to the Republican Party of South Carolina for a total of $13,500.
Additionally, McKissick and Johnson both volunteered to help Haley fundraise for her re-election campaign in 2013.
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