Sanford pays record ethics fine

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COLUMBIA, S.C. | South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford has paid the largest ethics fine in state history in the wake of an investigation launched after he confessed an affair with an Argentine woman, the State Ethics Commission’s director said Thursday.

Director Herb Hayden said Mr. Sanford’s lawyers dropped off a check for $74,000 in fines and $36,498 to cover the investigation and other commission costs on Wednesday.

“It’s the largest single fine that has ever been levied against anyone by the commission,” Mr. Hayden said.

The fine came in the wake of investigations by the Associated Press after Mr. Sanford disappeared for five days last June and returned to make a tearful confession of an affair with Maria Belen Chapur, the Argentine woman he said he’d had an affair with for a year and described as his soul mate.

The AP investigations showed Mr. Sanford traveled on commercial airlines on high-priced seats despite the state’s low-cost travel rules and used state planes for personal and political trips. The State newspaper in Columbia questioned campaign reimbursements to Mr. Sanford.

Attorney General Henry McMaster requested an investigation. While the Ethics Commission provided the results of that investigation to him in November, Mr. McMaster, who is running for governor, has not decided whether to pursue charges against Mr. Sanford.

Two weeks ago, Mr. Sanford entered a no-contest plea to 37 charges from the Ethics Commission investigation. Mr. Sanford said it was time to put the issue behind him.

The governor said in a statement he thinks he would have been vindicated if the commission had heard the case, but didn’t want to continue what he called an endless media circus.

Mr. Sanford also agreed to reimburse the state Commerce Department $18,000 for first- and business-class airfare; the state Aeronautics Division $7,792 for personal use of state-owned aircraft and give his campaign $2,941 to cover personal use of campaign funds, including a hunting trip to Ireland and his monthly cable television bills.

Mr. Hayden said Mr. Sanford must show those payments have been made within the next couple of weeks.

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