Tell-all book by ex-staffer isn’t on former Gov. Mark Sanford’s reading list

Gov. Mark Sanford delivers his last State of the State address in January 2010, six months after the infamous Appalachian Trail episode during which he disappeared for several days to visit his mistress in Argentina while aides tried to cover for him by claiming he was hiking in the mountains.

Mark Sanford has a stack of books on his to-read list ahead of a new tell-all book by an ex-staffer who watched the infamous Appalachian Trail story unfold when Charleston’s congressman was governor of South Carolina.

“Are you kidding me?” Sanford told The Post and Courier on Monday. “I have a sense of humor but given I lived the events of 2009, why would I want to read someone else’s version?”

“The Speechwriter: A Brief Education in Politics,” was written by Barton Swaim, who worked in Sanford’s communications office and had a ringside seat to the biggest political meltdown at the governor’s office in memory.

Sanford said he has no interest in reading what Swaim has put on paper about anything, including his observations of the time Sanford disappeared for six days in June 2009 to visit his then-mistress in Argentina.

Sanford also said that Swaim was so far down the staffing ladder and never a part of the office’s inner tier of decision-making that anything he would add to the record would come from “second or third-hand information.”

“There’s no broken trust because he wasn’t part of the circle of trust,” Sanford said.

Swaim, of Columbia, declined comment Monday, partially on the advice of his publisher to wait until closer to the book’s July 14 publication date. The 240-page work, listed at $25 retail, is being published by Simon & Schuster.

Press material describes the work as coming in an alternative funny format, not in the dry narrative that some political accounts follow.

It’s “an intimate and hilarious look inside the spin room of the modern politician: a place where ideals are crushed, English is mangled, people are humiliated, and the opportunity for humor is everywhere,” according to the press kit.

While Sanford is not identified directly as the subject of the writing, the book’s publicity items say it is about the former Republican governor, pointing to recognizable parts of his personality, including his well-documented frugality and ego.

“Swaim paints a portrait of a man so principled he’d rather sweat than use state money to pay for air conditioning, so oblivious he’d wear the same stained shirt for two weeks, so egotistical he’d belittle his staffers to make himself feel better, and so self-absorbed he never once apologized to his staff for making his administration the laughing stock of the country,” the promotion states.

“On the surface, this is the story of South Carolina governor Mark Sanford’s rise and fall. But in the end, it’s an account of the very human staffers who go into politics out of conviction and learn to survive a broken heart,” it also says.

Sanford said Monday he had been told by other staff the book was in the works but that he had never spoken to Swain about it.

Swaim worked for Sanford from 2007-2010. Those years cover Sanford’s second inaugural and when the governor’s spokesman put out the story that Sanford was hiking the Appalachian Trail after his whereabouts could not be confirmed. It also included the redemption tour that Sanford went on after his affair with future fiance Maria Belen Chapur went public. The couple has since split.

Sanford said that whatever the book says, Swain was free to write it.

“I don’t begrudge him,” Sanford said. “Again, everybody’s entitled to their own opinion but by nature of his role in the organization, it’s going to be a lot more fiction than fact.”

Reach Schuyler Kropf at 937-5551