Candidates spar over Sheheen's legal cases

Politics & Legal Posted on

Democratic gubernatorial nominee Vincent Sheheen has handled 90 workers' compensation cases since 2006, according to state records, earning more than $38,000 from his law firm's clients in 2008 and 2009 combined.

Sheheen, a Camden state senator and attorney, last handled a case before the state Workers' Compensation Commission -- whose members Sheheen votes to appoint -- in October, according to agency records.

How the state's gubernatorial candidates earn their living has become an issue in the race, with both Sheheen and Republican nominee Nikki Haley seeking to restore trust in the governor's office and in elected officials.

Haley, a Lexington state representative, has made transparency and requiring lawmakers to disclose their income a foundation of her campaign.

She has characterized Sheheen as a rich trial lawyer and pressed him to release his firm's clients so voters know about any potential conflicts of interests. Haley has also criticized Sheheen for known possible conflicts, such as Sheheen's workers' compensation work and his role in a $2.5 million class-action lawsuit settlement against payday lenders that could pay attorneys up to $1 million in fees.

But Haley has also said -- inaccurately -- in an interview with Fox News that Sheheen "is a trial lawyer that makes $400,000 a year off the state." Haley, who was paid $42,500 from 2007 to 2009 by an engineering firm for consulting work while a lawmaker, declined to answer questions about her income.

Sheheen said he follows Senate ethics laws, including disclosing his firm's publicly funded clients and recusing himself during budget votes, and there is no conflict of interest for votes on workers' compensation or payday lending legislation.

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