CREW requests investigation into Nikki Haley’s acceptance of private flights
Haley resigned less than 24 hours after CREW sent the complaint.
CREW filed a complaint with the State Department’s Office of Inspector General today requesting it investigate whether Ambassador Nikki Haley, United States Permanent Representative to the United Nations, complied with executive branch regulations restricting gifts from sources outside the government and the ethical values set forth in those regulations.
On May 15, 2018, Haley filed her annual public financial disclosure report for calendar year 2017. In the report, Haley disclosed that she and her husband accepted seven free flights on luxury private aircraft from three South Carolina businessmen. The total value of those flights is not known, but CREW estimates they were worth around $24,000.
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. One exception permits an employee to accept a gift “under circumstances which make it clear that the gift is motivated by a family relationship or personal friendship rather than the position of the employee.”
Haley asserted that each flight qualified for the exception to the rules for gifts based on personal relationships with the donors. It is not clear, however, that the personal relationship exception really applied to these gifts. The exception would not apply if their businesses covered any part of the cost of the flights or if Haley’s relationships with those individuals were professional or political, rather than personal..
But even if the relationships were purely personal and exchange of expensive gifts was routine, Haley and the State Department’s ethics office do not appear to be living up to the values-based ethical standard set forth for declining otherwise permissible gifts.