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Sanford can't use tax dollars to pay legal fees

Gov. Mark Sanford will have to tap his campaign fund to pay $28,000 in legal bills after the state attorney general's office denied a request to use taxpayer money to pay the bills.

A government watchdog group also has asked the S.C. State Ethics Commission to revisit a 1993 ruling that allows elected officials to use campaign money to pay their legal expenses.

In total, Sanford — a two-term Republican governor who vanished for five days this summer and confessed to an affair when he reappeared — has incurred $213,000 in legal bills to fight off impeachment.

That includes $185,000 Sanford's campaign paid Columbia private attorneys Butch Bowers and Kevin Hall in the last three months, according to his campaign filings. Sanford still has $1.4 million in his campaign account.

In November, Sanford's office hired impeachment specialist Ross Garber to represent the office of governor -- as opposed to Sanford, personally -- while a House panel weighed removing the governor from office. Garber previously represented former Connecticut Gov. John G. Rowland during a corruption scandal.

In a December letter to the attorney general, Sanford's chief legal counsel Swati Patel argued the state should pay Garber's $28,248.92 bill. The impeachment debate was a public issue and could have long-term consequences on the balance of power between governor and legislature, Patel said.

But the attorney general's office disagreed, denying Sanford's request.

"It is our opinion that these matters arose from personal conduct and not as a result of any official actions by the Governor," Chief Deputy Attorney General John McIntosh wrote in a response dated Tuesday. "This appears to be an expenditure not for a public purpose but for a private purpose."

Attorney General Henry McMaster is one of four Republicans seeking to succeed Sanford in office.

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

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