South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford's use of the state aircraft and campaign money for two trips to South America to meet his Argentine lover may have been unwise and unethical. But S.C. Attorney General Henry McMaster on Monday said he would not bring criminal charges.
McMaster, a Republican candidate for governor, said the "evidence does not support, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the governor knowingly, willfully and intentionally set out to break state law," The State
In a written statement following the decision, Sanford said: "While I've acknowledged repeatedly my own moral failing in this matter, we feel confirmed in our consistent belief that this Administration has always been a stalwart defender of the taxpayer." He thanked "the people across this state," and said he "committed long ago to joining South Carolinians in moving beyond this distraction, and instead focusing my time and efforts on economic development and job creation."
McMaster's decision likely ends the Sanford saga, which began last June when details of the extra-marital affair surfaced. The Republican governor's second and last term ends in January; his divorce from his former wife, Jenny, was finalized in March. (She was last seen in Washington during the weekend White House Correspondents' Association festivities
with new boyfriend, Georgia businessman Clay Boardman.) The state legislature rebuked Sanford, but did not impeach him.
Sanford did not admit any wrong-doing, but in March settled 37 civil charges with the State Ethics Commission. He agreed to pay $74,000 in fines and an additional $66,223 to reimburse airfare, use of state aircraft and campaign money.
"Those punishments are sufficient," McMaster said Monday in an Associated Press report, referring to the civil charges and censure by state lawmakers. "The time has come for our state to put this controversy behind us and move on."
An Associated Press
series on the governor's use of state resources prompted the attorney general's investigation, which itself came under scrutiny as it continued for five months, chiefly from McMaster's three GOP opponents in a June 8 primary. McMaster told the AP: "There are facts that needed to be determined outside of the scope of what we received from the Ethics Commission."
Some critics also said McMaster should have appointed an independent prosecutor to consider the charges. But McMaster told the AP last week that his office can prosecute fairly even in cases of people it knows.