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Newspaper: Families of Haley, Clyburn got casino shares

Former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, a potential 2024 presidential contender and former South Carolina governor, receives the Nathan Hale Patriot Award from The Citadel Republican Societ, on Thursday, Dec. 2, 2021, in Charleston, S.C. (AP Photo/Meg Kinnard)
Meg Kinnard/AP
FILE - Former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, former South Carolina governor, receives the Nathan Hale Patriot Award from The Citadel Republican Societ, on Thursday, Dec. 2, 2021, in Charleston, S.C. (AP Photo/Meg Kinnard)

The husband of former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and brother of U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn were given shares of a company that leased slots machines to a North Carolina tribal casino that needed political help to open last year, a national newspaper reported.

Clyburn's brother and a spokesperson for Haley both said the men provided services for the South Carolina-based Catawba Indian Nation's casino in Kings Mountain, North Carolina, The Wall Street Journal reported.

The tribe's leader said they met with dozens of federal officials in a transparent and public process over more than a decade as they sought to secure permission to build the casino.

The newspaper said it reviewed documents from Kings Mountain Equipment Supply LLC, which gets 20 cents for every $1 in profits the new Catawba Two Kings Casino generates from its hundreds of slot machines.

One stake in the supply company is held by John B. Clyburn, a brother of Rep. Clyburn. The high-ranking Democratic congressman introduced a bill that helped eliminate one of the final hurdles to get federal permission to build the casino.

Another stake is held by Michael Haley, husband of the former Republican governor who joined plenty of South Carolina politicians to fight against the Catawbas being able to open a casino in South Carolina. That led the tribe to its ultimately successful effort in North Carolina.

The documents reviewed by the newspaper show both men hold less than a 1% claim in the company.

Michael Haley was given his share as payment for his company doing physical and cybersecurity consulting for the project in 2018, a statement from his company said.

Nikki Haley was U.N. Ambassador for the U.S. at that time after leaving the governor's office a year earlier before her term ended.

As governor, Haley was against the Catawbas opening a South Carolina casino. She attended the 2021 groundbreaking in North Carolina, but her office said she was only acting as her husband's guest and never advocated to get federal approval for the North Carolina site.

John Clyburn told the newspaper he consulted on the project on and off for a decade introducing backers to people he knew, adding "I doubt that I discussed" the project with his brother.

John Clyburn received his share from the slot machine leasing company in September 2013, about a week after the Catawbas first asked for federal approval for the casino, the newspaper reported. He said he was surprised once the casino opened to get seven or eight payments from the company ranging from $600 to $1,300.

Rep. James Clyburn said he did not know about his brother's financial interest in the casino and the two never talked about the project.

The congressman said his sponsorship of the bill that cleared the path for the casino was to help the tribe which has been long neglected.

If his brother is profiting from a bill he helped get enacted, Rep. Clyburn told The Wall Street Journal, "I don't care. He gets to make a living. I don't get his permission, and I don't give him mine."

The Catawba Indian Nation has about 3,600 members and a 1,000-acre reservation near Rock Hill, South Carolina.

The 1993 National Indian Gaming Act exempted the Catawbas from a list of tribes that could open casinos in states like South Carolina that don't normally allow gambling.

The Catawbas spent decades trying to work around the law and after years of resistance from South Carolina lawmakers, switched their efforts in 2013 to opening in North Carolina, where they said their ancestors held land before Europeans came to North America.

The Kings Mountain, North Carolina, casino has about 1,000 slot machines in temporary buildings and doubled its floor plan after being open less than six months. The Catawbas plan a permanent facility with a 29-story hotel that could triple the number of slot machines.

Catawba Chief Bill Harris said the tribe is working with the National Indian Gaming Commission about unspecified problems that have held up the start of construction on the permanent casino.

The stakes held by Michael Haley and John Clyburn aren't with Kings Mountain Equipment Supply LLC itself, but instead with a different company called AGS of North Carolina LLC that itself had a 10.1% stake in Kings Mountain Equipment Supply, according to the documents reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.