Speaking at the Chamber of Commerce’s national headquarters in Washington, D.C., South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R) joined Republican lawmakers Tuesday to decry the National Labor Relations Board for siding with unions in its fight with Boeing. But it was Rand Paul (R-KY) who stole the show with a wild rant against the White House.
Haley organized the event to demand that the White House address the NLRB’s complaint against Boeing, which alleges that the company illegally retaliated against union workers at their Washington State production line by opening a second line in South Carolina, where union protections are weaker. But Paul went much further, suggesting it may be part of a broader conspiracy against states that voted against him in 2008.
“Mr. President, do you have an enemies list? Is this decision based on the fact that South Carolina appears to be a Republican state, has two Republican senators? Is this decision based on the fact that South Carolina is a ‘right to work’ state? Are they on your enemies list?” Paul said.
The Tea Party freshman continued, telling reporters that Democratic calls for disclosure of donations to political groups by companies were part of the possible conspiracy.
“The president has said now that he’s going to ask contractors who do business with the government ‘Who have you contributed to?’” he said. “Mr. President, do you have en enemies list? Will you now punish contractors who have given money to Republican candidates? I’m concerned, there are two Republican Senators from Kentucky. Are we on you enemies list? Is Alabama on your enemies list? Is Texas on your enemies list?”
Asked about Paul’s comments by TPM, Haley suggested the president’s actions left him open to ambiguous interpretation.
“I think right now no one knows what the White House is doing,” she said. “When he goes and steps in and allows this happen, yes this is an assault on South Carolina, but what does this mean for every other state?”
Haley was flanked by South Carolina pols, including both senators, Republicans Jim DeMint — who called the NLRB’s actions “thuggery” — and Lindsey Graham, as well as Paul and Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), among others. Conservative critics of the decision have argued that it will have far-reaching implications beyond South Carolina as it would set a precedent that companies that open up shop in “right to work” states may be vulnerable to lawsuits.
“For the President not to weigh in on this and not to say that this is going to be harmful is a problem,” Haley said at the event. “This is an unbelievable attack on not just ‘right to work’ states, but every state that is attempting to put their people to work.”
Haley’s endorsement is arguably the most sought after in the 2012 Republican primaries, and she recently told NRO that the issue will be a test for all candidates. Her national star power and outsized role in the nomination process all but ensure that the issue will generate increasing attention nationally for the Republican Party. Already a group of GOP senators are threatening to block the appointment of new labor officials by the White House over the NLRB case.
Scott Walker and Chris Christie may get the bulk of national attention for their fights with labor, but Haley has deployed at least as harsh rhetoric in her own union battles.
“There’s no secret I don’t like the unions,” Haley told the Associated Press shortly after taking office.
Benjy Sarlin is a reporter for Talking Points Memo and co-writes the campaign blog, TPM2012. He previously reported for The Daily Beast/Newsweek as their Washington Correspondent and covered local politics for the New York Sun.