SC Democrats to Attack Sanford on Past 'Ethics' Charges

SC Democrats to Attack Sanford on Past 'Ethics' Charges

After former Republican South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford won the GOP nomination for Sen. Tim Scott’s (R-SC) congressional seat on Tuesday, Democrats signaled they will not focus on Sanford’s affair with his Argentinian mistress–now his fiancée–but will highlight possible ethics violations surrounding his trips to Argentina while he was governor. 

Party strategists believe there’s little to gain from harping on Sanford’s infamous extramarital affair because voters know all about it. They believe attacks on his alleged misuse of taxpayer dollars and other charges in a 2009 state ethics commission report will be much more damaging.

Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC), who supports Elizabeth Colbert Busch, the Democrat challenging Sanford, said on Wednesday that, since everybody knows about Sanford’s disappearance in 2009, Democrats would be better off focusing on how Sanford may have used state funds to travel to Argentina while he was on the job. 

“His disappearance (with the Argentinian mistress), I don’t think is going to be an issue, but when you look at the ethics report, I don’t think many people have looked very hard at the ethics report,” Clyburn said on MSNBC. “I suspect that the Colbert campaign is probably going to highlight that ethics report and things in there which I do believe that Mark Sanford needs to answer for.”

In 2009, after Sanford went missing and was later discovered in Argentina, contrary to reports that he had gone hiking on the Appalachian Trail, South Carolina state lawmakers investigated whether Sanford violated ethics rules. 

As The Hill noted, “a report from the official state ethics commission found 37 possible ethics violations, most of them stemming from Sanford using state funds for private air travel including to visit his mistress.” Most of those were dismissed, and Sanford pled no contest to four charges,  “paying $74,000 in fines — a state record for the highest ethics fine ever paid — as well as $36,000 to cover the cost of the investigation.”

Sanford campaign strategist Joel Sawyer told The Hill that Sanford did not violate ethics laws, and he just paid the fines “in the best interests of the state to just move forward rather than litigate it.” Sawyer, who directed Sanford’s communications when he went missing, said had Sanford litigated all of the charges, Sanford would have won. 

Sanford’s campaign believes that for Colbert Busch to have a chance of winning, she has to make Sanford the focus of the race in order to hide her liberal values and “history of advocating for bigger government and more spending,” which are inconsistent with the views of  the Republican-leaning voters in the district.