Politics & Government

Sanford's lawyers defend use of state airplanes

Gov. Mark Sanford's attorneys argued the two-term Republican only used state aircraft for official business, adding lawmakers were "splitting hairs" over ethical violations — proof Sanford had done nothing to warrant his removal from office.

Sanford's attorneys laid out their defense during a three-hour hearing examining the governor's use of state aircraft, the second of four scheduled House impeachment hearings.

However, the House panel voted Tuesday to expand its inquiry into the 2008 trade trip to Brazil that Sanford detoured from to meet his Argentine lover. This summer, Sanford reimbursed the state $3,300 for airfare to Buenos Aires and expenses.

Impeachment committee chairman James Harrison, R-Richland, said he agreed with Sanford's attorneys that the panel should reject some of the nine charges the State Ethics Commission lodged against the governor for his use of state aircraft.

Harrison said five charges may cross legal lines but added he had yet to make up his mind.

Lawmakers are reviewing Sanford's use of state aircraft and campaign money, and his abandoning of his duties for a secret five-day trip to Argentina in June.

Sanford's attorneys, Butch Bowers and Kevin Hall, laid out a three-tiered defense of the governor's use of state aircraft:

- Every trip could be considered official business, they said, adding an opinion by the S.C. attorney general allows state plane use for official business. Lawmakers questioned whether some trips - one dropped the Sanford family off for a vacation on the Georgia coast - benefited the state.

To read the complete article, visit www.thestate.com.

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