An ethics probe into whether South Carolina's Indian-American governor Nikki Haley illegally lobbied for her employers when she was a legislator would be launched by a key legislative panel on Thursday in a first such investigation against the state's top elected official.
South Carolina governor Nikki Haley speaks to voters at Hudson's Smokehouse in Lexington, South Carolina. AFP/Chris Keane
40-year-old Haley had created history last year by becoming the first Indian-American woman governor of a US state. She is also the first non-white and woman governor of South Carolina.
This is for the first time that a governor is being investigated by the South Carolina House Ethics Committee, which has subpoenaed 11 corporate executives, lobbyists and former government officials for the hearing, as well as documents.
Haley has denied any wrongdoings.
"We have turned over anything and everything that they want. It has been an amicable process. And if they want my birth certificate, driver's licence, they can get that too," Haley said last week.
Born to immigrants from Punjab, Haley, who was a state representative from 2005-2010, is accused of using her office to illegally lobby on behalf of two of her employers - the Lexington Medical Center Foundation, where she was a USD 110,000-a-year fundraiser, and the Columbia-based Wilbur Smith and Associates engineering firm, where she was paid USD 42,500 as a consultant.
According to the local 'The State' newspaper, Haley's attorneys have said she was representing her Lexington County constituents, not the hospital, on the heart-centre issue and was hired to help win county and private contracts for the engineering firm.
At the time, Lexington was looking for legislative support to build a heart-surgery centre, it said. Wilbur Smith was seeking work on the new State Farmers Market, the daily said.
Haley's attorneys also said no rules were broken when lobbyists and companies gave donations to Lexington Medical's foundation.