Both 1st District candidates have had success raising money since the day the world awoke to the news that Republican Mark Sanford was accused of trespassing at his ex-wife’s Sullivan’s Island home.
Democrat Elizabeth Colbert Busch leads the former governor in fundraising, especially when contributions from outside groups are factored in.
She has raised roughly $85,000 in large donations in the days since April 17, including about $54,000 — or more than 60 percent — that came from outside the district, according to the latest financial reports filed with the Federal Election Commission.
In all, she had raised a total of about $1.18 million from mid-January through April 17 while Sanford had pulled in about $788,000.
Sanford had a slim lead in cash on hand with roughly $284,000 to the $254,000 in Colbert Busch’s campaign coffers. But she is sure to add to her total tonight with a $1,500-per-person fundraiser in Charleston featuring her brother, comedian Stephen Colbert. His previous fundraising visit here was the campaign’s best-attended event to date.
Since the start of Sanford’s self-proclaimed “rough week” April 17, he has received $77,000 from donors giving at least $1,000, according to the filings. However, about $19,000 of that appears to have been incorrectly reported twice in the filings, so his total is closer to $58,000.
He also received a sizable portion of his contributions, about $31,000, from outside the district since April 17. That doesn’t include $5,000 donations from Boeing’s and MeadWestvaco’s political action committees.
Asked about his fundraising Friday, Sanford said he’s pleased with his recent results. “We’ve got more cash on hand than the Democrats,” he said. “But I know we’re going to be outspent by the end.”
Colbert Busch said she has received an average donation of $63 from more than 10,000 donors. “I’m so appreciative that so many people have joined this campaign,” she said.
Still, the fundraising gap won’t play a major role in the May 7 election, said College of Charleston political science professor Jordan Ragusa. He said Sanford needs less money, given his wide name recognition from six years in Congress and eight more as governor.
“The effect of money in these campaigns is vastly overblown,” Ragusa said. “It’s not as if she can flood the airwaves and start buying votes. It’s not that simple.”
Outside groups have been far more active on the Democratic side.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the House Majority PAC are spending about $600,000 to attack Sanford and help Colbert Busch, who also is benefiting from a $30,000 ad campaign from the VoteVets group. The S.C. Democratic Party said Friday it has launched a Facebook ad campaign targeting Sanford.
Sanford repeatedly has pointed out the ties between the House Majority PAC and House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi.
After Sanford’s trespassing accusation came to light, the National Republican Congressional Committee announced it was ending its involvement in the race, shutting off a potential funding source.
And a California-based political committee this week announced a write-in campaign to try to elect another Republican.
Ragusa said the NRCC’s decision was more important from a symbolic sense than a financial one. “It was a powerful signal about where his campaign was going,” he said.
Friday morning, Colbert Busch held an event with former Charleston County Sheriff candidate Mark Whisenant to talk about her support of firefighters and other first responders, and she criticized Sanford for going “AWOL” as governor in 2009.
“Mark Sanford had many opportunities in Congress, many opportunities as a governor to support our first responders, and he did not,” she said, adding police, firefighters and other first responders were the heroes during 9/11 and the Boston Marathon bombing.
“They did not go AWOL. They did not leave their post. They did not have a dereliction of duty,” she said.
As he met reporters outside the St. Philip’s Tea Room, Sanford said “there’s a lot of urban legend” surrounding his 2009 trip to Argentina. His staff had told reporters he was hiking the Appalachian Trail, but he was really going to meet his mistress, who is now his fiancee.
“I was reached by phone. I changed my flight. I came home,” he said, adding it would not happen again.
“I think it goes without saying that after you’ve gone through what was arguably the most painful chapter of my life and the most painful chapter for a lot of different folks that it’s not going to be one that’s repeated,” he said.
Sanford also stopped by Hughes Lumber Building Supply in downtown Charleston.
Wandering through the lumber bins and parking lot, he greeted employees and customers. Shadowing him throughout these exchanges was a young man in sunglasses and carrying a small video camera. On occasion, he interrupted Sanford’s conversations with questions about fundraising and other issues.
The man identified himself to The Post and Courier as Trey and said he worked for the state Democratic Party.
He also has appeared at previous Sanford appearances, and his presence clearly irked Sanford, who described it as an “example of New Jersey-style politics” designed to get into a candidate’s head.
“It has no place in the Lowcountry,” he said, then grabbed his cellphone to show how many people from out of state have been calling him since a Democratic super PAC began circulating his number in emails to supporters.
Tony Bartelme contributed to this report. Reach Robert Behre at 937-5771. Reach Schuyler Kropf at 937-5551.