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.
Uh, Earth to Mark Sanford: $1,265 to taxpayers for a your "favorite discount hair salon" isn't exactly a discount. True, it didn't cost you a dime, but to taxpayers, it's not a good deal, and it's not even close.
Amazingly, there's more -- a lot more. The AP investigation showed that Sanford routinely used the plane for political and personal travel, racking up thousands of dollars in expenses, including:
- Use of state plane to fly family to state Christmas tree lightings ($5,536)
- In 2005, Sanford flew to see his dentist, after which he attended a GOP event for Sens. Graham and DeMint.
- In 2006, Sanford flew from a son's soccer tournament to an NRSC meeting.
- Overall, Sanford has spent $373,000 flying across the state, the vast majority of which was spent on the larger of his two plane options.
- During his first term, Sanford used the planes more than twice as frequently as the past two governors combined to ferry his children around the state.
- In 2004, he flew to a son's football game
- In 2006, he flew to a birthday party for a major donor
- In 2005, he flew to county GOP event
Surely this sort of abuse of power is illegal, right? Well, yes it is:
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."
Any public official found to have used state property for personal financial gain is subject to as much as a $5,000 fine and five years in prison. Only incidental use that does not result in additional public expense is exempt.
Maybe Sanford should have stayed in Argentina. Rumor has it you can get a haircut for less than $1,265 down there.