Sanford broke law, legislators say

Associated Press

South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford broke state law when he charged taxpayers for business and first-class flights, according to the chairman of the legislative committee investigating Sanford's international travel.

State Sen. David Thomas, whose budget committee investigated Sanford's flights after reports last month by the Associated Press, sent evidence to Senate leaders Monday arguing that the Republican governor violated state laws requiring the cheapest travel possible.

Thomas said Sanford's more expensive flights on two state Commerce Department trips cost taxpayers $13,700 more than economy class.

Legislators can consider sanctions against Sanford ranging from demanding reimbursement to impeachment, said Thomas, a Republican.

"It could be perceived, if it's significant enough and a case can be made of it, to constitute a case for possible impeachment," Thomas said Monday.

Sanford spokesman Benjamin Fox said Thomas' conclusions that the governor broke the law "blatantly overreach and accordingly are, in our view, not correct."

"Before making his claims, it would have seemed fair for Sen. Thomas to actually approach our office, as well as the Department of Commerce, to discuss his evidence and his interpretation of state laws and regulations," Fox said in a statement.

Sanford, 49, has been under increased scrutiny since admitting in June to having a mistress in Argentina. He has vowed to stay in office and says he is trying to reconcile with his wife, who has moved out of the governor's official residence to live at the family's beach house with their sons.

Thomas, who has announced his candidacy for Congress, said the budget subcommittee that he chairs also will investigate Sanford's use of state planes.

The AP reported this week that the governor used state aircraft for personal and political trips, a practice that is contrary to state law.

Sanford's staff has defended his use of the planes, saying he always traveled on state business and used the planes less often than his predecessors.

Thomas said he didn't believe a single issue would trigger an impeachment process.

"It's the whole array of all the things that we've seen over the past month," he said.

Thomas said he is not advocating impeachment or any other sanctions but will simply present his findings to legislators for review.

"They could do nothing," he said.

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