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Watchdog Group Calls For Probe Of Nikki Haley Flights Funded By Businessmen

A watchdog organization is calling for an investigation into seven private flights taken by United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley that were paid for by South Carolina business executives.

The 2017 flights, which Haley listed on her public financial disclosure report this year, were between New York, Washington and three cities in her home state of South Carolina, where she was governor before joining the Trump administration. The watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington said the flights were likely worth about $24,000 and should be investigated by the State Department’s inspector general. 

“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, executive director of the group, said in a statement. “Our ethics laws are clearly written to prevent even the appearance of corruption and improper influence.”

At a “minimum,” Bookbinder said, Haley should have been sensitive to the appearance of accepting pricey gifts from businessmen — especially at a time when other Trump officials have been caught in scandals for lavish travel.

Haley argued in her disclosure that the flights, which she valued at $3,200, were exempt from ethics regulations because of her personal relationship with the businessmen who paid for the gifts. Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington argued that Haley didn’t provide enough information supporting the claim. 


Reuters/Jeenah Moon

Jimmy Gibbs, CEO of textile machine company Gibbs International Inc., paid for four of the flights. Others were paid for by Smyth McKissick, CEO of his family’s Alice Manufacturing,  and Mikee Johnson, then-CEO of Cox Industries, his family’s wood business, according to Haley’s report. 

Haley’s acceptance of the free flights failed to comply with “executive branch regulations restricting gifts from sources outside the government,” the watchdog group said. The regulations were enacted so that wealthy citizens can’t use expensive gifts to wrangle special treatment from government officials.

President Donald Trump’s former Health and Human Services head Tom Price resigned last year after spending $1 million in taxpayer money for pricey chartered jets and using military aircraft for government work. 

Scott Pruitt, head of the Environmental Protection Agency, resigned this year amid an avalanche of scandals including accepting reduced rent on an apartment owned by a gas industry lobbyist and pricey travel and security paid for by taxpayers.

Brock Long, Trump’s head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, last month was ordered to repay the treasury for using government SUVs for personal travel, costing taxpayers $150,000.

Haley could not be immediately reached for comment.

UPDATE: 10:35 a.m. ― Haley resigned as United Nations ambassador the day after CREW called for an investigation. 

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