Governor Mark Sanford now has new allegations against him. An AP investigation alleges that Sanford used the state’s planes for personal and political trips to fly to his children’s sporting events, to hair and dentist appointments, and to political gatherings, as well as a birthday party for a campaign donor. State law requires the planes to be used only for official business.
Kershaw County Senator Vincent Sheheen, a member of the Senate Transportation Committee, wants that committee to investigate those allegations. “South Carolina government too often does not perform thorough investigations. This is a time that we should live up to that obligation. I think the Transportation Committee needs to look into the places traveled to, what the purposes were, and determine whether there was any wrongdoing or not.”
Sheheen says if the state aircraft has been misused, the governor should repay every penny owed to the taxpayers.
But Greenville Senator David Thomas and the Administrative Subcommittee that he chairs are already investigating the governor’s trips, particularly those where his security detail were not present. Would another investigation by the Transportation Committee be a duplication of effort?
Sheheen says no. “I think the issue most appropriately comes under the Transportation Committee, even though the misuse of any state funds would certainly fall under Senator Thomas’ committee. “I don’t think this is duplication and I don’t see anything wrong with these committees working together. But it needs to be done and we can’t just sit around and talk about it. And listen, if the governor defends his use of the planes, then we need to know that.”
Sheheen described the allegations as “mind boggling.” “It was particularly mind boggling that he was using the plane to go get his hair cut. But I do think the governor should have the opportunity to respond to all those allegations.”
Among the trips, $5500 to fly the governor and his family on five out of the last six Thanksgiving weekends, from their home in Beaufort County to Columbia for the statehouse tree lighting. The governor’s spokesman told AP that the governor’s children could tag along on trips at no extra cost to the taxpayer.
On March 10, 2006, a state plane was sent to pick up Sanford in Myrtle Beach and return him to Columbia at a cost of $1,265, when his calendar showed he was spending personal time at his favorite hair salon.
South Carolina Democratic Party Chair Carol Fowler released a statement saying that Sanford’s bragging about being thrifty is just a joke if he was spending over $1200 to get to an appointment with his barber.
Fowler called on Attorney General Henry McMaster to be more vocal about the possible misuse of funds.