A South Carolina citizen watchdog group sees a real problem with Governor Mark Sanford using some of his campaign funds to pay for lawyers who defended him against impeachment proceedings, as well as the stimulus funds lawsuit heard before the state Supreme Court. Common Cause Executive Director John Crangle says he does not believe that’s legal under the state ethics act. He also says his organization is considering a lawsuit against the governor over the issue.
The state Ethics Commission has indicated that Sanford’s use of the funds is permissible.
Crangle wants South Carolina Attorney General Henry McMaster to give an opinion on the legality of Sanford’s use of the funds and he’s currently looking for a sponsor in the General Assembly for that official inquiry.
(Crangle on campaign funds MP3 :55)
Crangle says the payments currently in question could involve more than $200,000 in campaign donations. He says Sanford has approximately $1.5 million left in his campaign fund.
Crangle says Common Cause is serious about a possible lawsuit. He says either the use of funds is legal, or it’s not. “If it’s not legal, we’ll ask for an injunction and get the governor to pay restitution for the funds spent on fees,” he says, “and we would stop him from spending any more of it on legal fees.”
Crangle says from the perspective of his organization, Sanford using the funds to pay attorneys amounts to personal use. “His personal behavior got him in trouble with the House which led to a movement to impeach him,” says Crangle. “That didn’t have anything to do with his office, but with his personal agenda, which he has admitted involved an extramarital affair. Extramarital affairs are not part of your duties as Governor of South Carolina.”