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Haley cleared of ethics charges, still faces questions over husband's Facebook post

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South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley is a prominent Sikh and American of Indian descent. (Reuters)

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley was cleared of ethics charges Friday for the second time in two months, though her family continues to deal with a separate controversy after her military husband took to Facebook to call state lawmakers "cowards." 

The House Ethics Committee on Friday cleared Haley of charges she illegally lobbied while a member of the House. 

Haley's attorney Butch Bowers said the verdict ends the matter and shows Haley's conduct was appropriate. Haley issued a statement saying she is pleased with the results. 

"The Ethics Committee did its job thoroughly, professionally and well," she said. "It's just a shame that our judicial and legislative bodies have had to waste so much of their time on phony political charges that never had any evidence behind them or any basis in fact." 

Haley had testified she did nothing wrong in her previous jobs as a fundraiser for Lexington Medical Center's nonprofit and as a consultant for engineering firm Wilbur Smith Associates. 

But there's another matter hanging over the Haleys -- that would be husband Michael Haley's Facebook post last week slamming lawmakers for not voting on a government restructuring bill the governor favored. 

Michael Haley, who is an officer in the South Carolina National Guard, posted the item last Thursday, after the Senate failed to vote on a bill backed by his wife that would restructure portions of the state government. 

"It amazes me that in a week that we have heroes who have died fighting for our freedoms, we have cowards who are afraid to take a vote in the senate," Haley wrote. 

Earlier that day, the Guard announced that three state soldiers had been killed in an attack by a suicide bomber in Afghanistan. 

The governor, in response to calls that her husband apologize, defended him by saying he is a "citizen" and "has the right to get frustrated." 

But Lexington Republican Sen. Jake Knotts, a frequent opponent of the governor, suggested Tuesday that Michael Haley's action had violated the Hatch Act, which prohibits federal employees from engaging in partisan political activity. 

"I'm concerned when a person uses his uniform or position in the military for political purposes," Knotts said. He said the Facebook post was "an insult to the families and to the Senate as a whole." 

He said Haley should offer apologies to both the soldiers' families and to the Senate, and he asked Maj. Gen. Robert Livingston, head of the state's National Guard, to look into the matter. 

Livingston has since said he will conduct an internal review of the Guard's policy on social media use. 

Livingston said he spoke with Michael Haley about the matter, and Haley told the general he intended to express himself as a private citizen, not as a member of the Guard. 

On Monday, state Sen. Phil Leventis said on the floor of the Senate that Michael Haley's comment amounted to politics at its worst. He said he didn't think the three soldiers died for a new South Carolina Department of Administration. 

"I found it difficult that Mr. Haley implied that he knew what those three wanted. They died as Americans. They didn't die as Republicans or Democrats," said Leventis, a Democrat who retired as a brigadier general in the South Carolina Air National Guard after 30 years in uniform. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.