Sanford to pay $74,000 in fines
Gov. Mark Sanford has agreed to pay $74,000 in fines to settle claims that he violated state ethics laws regarding travel and campaign spending.
The consent order was released Thursday, just as Sanford's divorce from his wife Jenny was finalized at a Charleston courthouse.
It closes another chapter in the governor's stunning fall since June, when he returned to the state and revealed that he had not been hiking the Appalachian Trail, as his staff had said publicly, but instead was visiting his Argentine mistress.
S.C. Attorney General Henry McMaster still is weighing whether to pursue criminal charges in the case. McMaster, one of five Republicans running to succeed Sanford, has said little about that possibility.
McMaster's spokesman Mark Plowden said Thursday, "Our review is not affected, and is ongoing."
The scrutiny of the governor intensified last summer and eventually led to the State Ethics Commission filing civil charges against him.
The 37 charges involved improperly buying first- and business-class airline tickets, violating a state law requiring lowest-cost travel; improper use of state-owned aircraft to get to political and personal events; and improperly reimbursing himself with campaign cash.
Sanford, whose term expires in January, said in a statement that he still believes "in the innocence of my actions," and that the consent order confirms that his actions "never extended to the taxpayer."
"When it comes to watching out for the taxpayer I, and by extension my administration, did nothing wrong and have always tried to go the extra mile in being good stewards of taxpayer funds," he said.
"It is disturbing that the Ethics Commission has chosen to judge me by a different standard than any governor over the last 30 years."
Regarding his use of business-class tickets, he noted that members of the House, Senate, Cabinet and Commerce staff have used them too. He said allowing the Ethics Commission, an appointed board, to make a retroactive change after state officials have bought such tickets for 30 years "sets (an) exceedingly bad precedent."
By signing the order, Sanford doesn't admit to violating ethics laws but does not dispute the accusations.
"It's time to move on," Sanford said. "While I believe I would be vindicated on all these matters if there were ever a full airing, the people of South Carolina have moved on from all that unfolded last summer and this administration has moved on as well."
Sanford said the legal steps necessary to prove his innocence "would subject the people of South Carolina to more of what at times has seemed an endless media circus. I don't believe continuing this is in the best interest of the state, my boys, the ideas I believe in, or those who support those ideas, and for these reasons I have signed the consent order."
In January, state representatives voted overwhelmingly to censure Sanford for bringing "ridicule, dishonor, shame and disgrace to himself, the state of South Carolina and to its citizens." The state Senate has taken up the matter of a censure, which has no practical effect.
Despite the tone of his statement, Sanford also thanked the Ethics Commission for its work, adding, "I have both tried to apologize and take full responsibility for my personal failing, as I know I let so many down in all that unfolded since this past summer."
ALLEGED VIOLATIONS AND THE PAYOUT
Among the violations the State Ethics Commission alleged against Mark Sanford were:
• Approving the purchase of four first- and business-class commercial airline tickets for a June 2008 trip during which he met with his mistress in Argentina.
• Personal use of state-owned aircraft for trips such as the birthday party of a campaign contributor in Aiken.
• Reimbursing himself nearly $3,000 using campaign contributions, including about $900 for expenses to attend a Republican Governors Association meeting in Miami and a hunting trip in Dublin several days later.
In total, Sanford will have to pay $140,234, which he can pay from his campaign account. Sanford had $1.4 million in his account, according to his most recent campaign finance report. Under the agreement, Sanford will pay:
• A $2,000 fine for all 37 charges, for a total of $74,000.
• The Ethics Commission nearly $36,498 for its investigative costs.
• $18,000 to the state Departments of Commerce for first- and business-class airfare.
• $7,792 to the Division of Aeronautics and $1,003 for personal use of state-owned aircraft.
In addition, Sanford said he will pay $2,941 to his own campaign account as a reimbursement for personal use of campaign funds.