Ethics panel charges Sanford with 37 counts of breaking law

The State Ethics Commission has charged Gov. Mark Sanford with breaking state ethics laws 37 times, including using state planes for family trips, spending campaign funds on a hunting trip and flying first class, instead of coach, while on state travel.

The commission, which last week wrapped up its preliminary, three-month-long investigation into allegations against the embattled governor, released the charges to the public Monday.

The commission's findings have been eagerly awaited by legislators, who are deciding whether to oust Sanford from office before his term ends in January 2011.

A subcommittee of the S.C. House will consider an impeachment resolution for the first time today.

The Ethics Commission charges allege:

- Sanford flew business or first class 18 times between 2005 and 2009 while on state business. Those trips included travel to Europe, Asia and South America. State law requires officials to choose the most economical fare unless there is an urgent reason to do otherwise.

- Sanford used state aircraft for personal travel nine times between 2005 and 2008, including a book signing, a birthday party for a contributor, a son's sporting event and a family getaway to Georgia.

- On 10 occasions, Sanford took money from his campaign account, donated by supporters, and improperly spent it on personal uses, including an Irish hunting trip and a GOP governors meeting in Miami. The money in question, a total of $2,940.68, was spent between 2006 and 2009.

Sanford was cleared by the commission for failing to report private plane trips given to him by friends and political allies. Sanford's attorney told the commission the governor will disclose all of the trips. "With this amendment ... Gov. Sanford will have complied, albeit late, with the filing requirements" of state law, the commission said.

The charges against Sanford will be aired at a hearing of a three-member Ethics Commission panel, to be held sometime in January.

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