Election 2012
6:15 pm
Fri August 31, 2012

Haley Taps Convention Fervor For Misleading Fundraising Pitch

South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley wasted no time parlaying her prime-time speaking slot at the Republican National Convention into a fundraising pitch. Facebook and Twitter messages from the governor urged supporters to give now and "ensure America's Comeback Team is elected in November!"  But there's a problem with that pitch.

Governor Haley's enthusiastic online call for donations to help elect "America's Comeback Team" doesn't take you to a fundraising page for the Republican Presidential ticket.  It takes you to her campaign page - and she's not even up for re-election for two more years.

"This is called milking the moment for all its worth," says Catawba College Political Scientist Michael Bitzer.

Social media is making it even easier to turn big moments like a convention speech into campaign cash, adds Bitzer.

Suppose, though, you actually take the governor's Facebook post literally, click through and see right at the top of the page the words "help ensure conservative victory this November!" Well, you might be forgiven for not noticing the money goes toward Haley's 2014 re-election campaign.

"Yeah, when the donor gets their credit card bill and sees 'Nikki Haley,' instead of 'Romney-Ryan,' that could be the time we start to see the blowback on this particular initiative," says Bitzer.

And no, the Haley campaign cannot just transfer your donation to the Romney campaign - that's illegal.  

It is not, however, illegal to blur the messaging lines in asking for money, says U.C. Irvine election law expert Rick Hasen.

"The idea that someone might have somewhat deceptive campaign speech - that happens all the time," says Hasen. "In looking at this ad, it doesn't look like this crosses the line into fraud. I think anybody who clicks on that link will realize they're donating to the Nikki Haley campaign and not the (Romney-Ryan) campaign."

A consultant for the Haley campaign says the South Carolina governor was a proud early supporter of Romney and notes that using convention excitement to fundraise is extremely common.

And just like in the advertising world, misleading messages are common, too, "so voters be aware - and beware," says Denise Roth Barber with Followthemoney.org.

Governor Haley has so far reported raising $1.3 million for her 2014 re-election campaign.