AP Investigation Busts Sanford: Used State Planes for Haircuts

looks as if the Associated Press thinks Governor Sanford has caused enough trouble for his party


South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford used state aircraft for personal and political trips, often bringing along his wife and children — contrary to state law regarding official use, an Associated Press investigation has found.

According to state budget law, "Any and all aircraft owned or operated by agencies of the State Government shall be used only for official business." Records reviewed by the AP show that since he took office in 2003, the two-term Republican has taken trips on state aircraft to locations of his children's sporting events, hair and dentist appointments, political party gatherings and a birthday party for a campaign donor.

On March 10, 2006, a state plane was sent to pick up Sanford in Myrtle Beach and return him to Columbia, the state capital, at a cost of $1,265 — when his calendar showed his only appointment in Columbia was "personal time" at his favorite discount hair salon.

He had flown to Myrtle Beach on a private plane and attended a county GOP event. The trip home on the state aircraft took off at 1:50 p.m. and arrived in Columbia at 2:35, enabling the governor to keep his plans for a 3 p.m. haircut across town. There were no other appointments on his official schedule that afternoon; the trip back to Columbia would have taken about three hours by car.

Also, on five of the last six Thanksgiving weekends, Sanford used a state plane to fly himself, his wife and their four sons from the family's plantation in Beaufort County to Columbia for the state Christmas tree lighting. The cost for those flights alone: $5,536, including $2,869 for flying the plane empty to pick them up.

Sanford, 49, has been under increased scrutiny since he admitted in June to having a mistress in Argentina. He's vowed to stay in office and says he is trying to reconcile with his wife, though she moved out of the governor's official residence on Friday with their sons and plans to spend the school year at the family's beach house.

The governor has made a political career out of being outwardly thrifty — known to demand that state employees use both sides of Post-It notes. He has frequently railed against government spending, and attempted for months to block federal stimulus money for South Carolina schools.

Sort of makes me wonder if the much-misused Mrs. Sanford, who seems to have a good relationship with the AP, knew this was coming before she made her own travel plans  (certainly the AP photographer got to the governor's mansion in an awfully timely fashion on Friday).

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