Democratic super PAC enters special election in S.C. with ad against Sanford

Chris Moody

A Democratic super PAC will launch an ad campaign in South Carolina's congressional election targeting Republican candidate Mark Sanford's travel schedule while he was governor of the state, Yahoo News has learned.

House Majority PAC, the first outside group to air TV ads in the race between Sanford and Democratic candidate Elizabeth Colbert Busch, will run a 30-second spot for the next three weeks. The six-figure ad accuses Sanford, who was governor from 2003-2011, of embarking on a "taxpayer-fueled spending spree" during his time in office by spending $400,000 for trips to "France, China and Argentina." The ad will begin airing in Savannah and Charleston on Wednesday evening.

"Welcome to Air Sanford," a voice says in the ad. "He charged us $400,000 to travel around the world."

A special election to fill the House seat in South Carolina's 1st Congressional District is scheduled for May 7 after former Rep. Tim Scott was appointed to former South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint's Senate seat, who left the chamber last year to lead the Heritage Foundation.

In 2010, Sanford reimbursed the state $18,000 for flying in business class on international trips and in 2009 he paid $3,000 for a trip in which he visited his Argentine mistress, María Belén Chapur. While the ad does not address Sanford's affair, it alludes to it by showing a graphic of two hands clasped together when it mentions Argentina.

Sanford defended his travel expenses in an interview with the National Review in January:

Every governor has traveled business class on international flights when crossing the Atlantic or the Pacific. [Governors ] Beasley, Hodges, Campbell, Riley, the current governor. The accounting office before 2009 would look at all of those receipts and sign off on them without question. Not only every former governor, every former secretary of commerce, a number of different senior staffers, and house and senate members — in essence, the people who had been prosecuting the case! — had been on the exact same trips I was.

Some former governors wouldn’t take business class because they took the state’s private jet instead. When I came into office, we sold the jet. If you look at the Hodges administration, they spent just shy of $400,000 on that jet. Just the cost of that jet alone, selling it, you immediately lost a $10,000 monthly maintenance fee, you lost operating costs, and so on. Those savings alone paid for all of the operating costs of my flying.


I took a flight from Charleston to Columbia. They said, “You came back for a hair appointment.” We said, “No, that’s not the case. We just wrote down every little detail on the schedule as things evolved.” It may have been a mistake to do that, in terms of publicity, but we were wrong to write everything down. No question about events before, no question about events after. And we said, “Why would I take a flight to get to a haircut place that doesn’t take appointments?” It was the Hair Cuttery, for a ten-dollar haircut, walk-in only with no appointments. I was coming back to Columbia anyway, but that’s the way the ethics commission wrote it up.