COLUMBIA -- Gov. Mark Sanford has paid the largest ethics fine in South Carolina history in the wake of an investigation launched after he confessed an affair with an Argentine woman, the State Ethics Commission's director said Thursday.
Director Herb Hayden said Sanford's lawyers dropped off a check for $74,000 in fines and $36,498 to cover investigation and other commission costs on Wednesday. He also has agreed to reimburse state agencies and his campaign a total of $29,736 for travel and personal expenses. "It's the largest single find that has ever been levied against anyone by the commission," Hayden said.
The Ethics Commission probe came in the wake of investigations by The Associated Press after Sanford disappeared for five days last June and returned to make a tearful confession of an affair with Maria Belen Chapur, the Argentine woman he said he'd had an affair with for a year and described as his soul mate.
The AP investigations showed Sanford traveled on commercial airlines on high-priced seats despite the state's low-cost travel rules and used state planes for personal and political trips. The State newspaper in Columbia questioned campaign reimbursements to Sanford.
Attorney General Henry McMaster requested an investigation. While the Ethics Commission provided the results of that investigation to him in November, McMaster, who is running for governor, has not decided whether to pursue charges against Sanford.
Two weeks ago, Sanford entered a no-contest plea to 37 charges stemming from the Ethics Commission investigation. Sanford said it was time to put the issue behind him. Sanford said in a statement that he thinks he would have been vindicated if the commission had heard the case, but didn't want to continue what he called an endless media circus.
Sanford also agreed to reimburse the state Commerce Department $18,000 for first- and business-class airfare; the state Aeronautics Division $7,792 for personal use of state-owned aircraft, $1,003 to the Department of Natural Resources for use of that agency's aircraft and give his campaign $2,941 to cover personal use of campaign funds.