COLUMBIA, S.C. (CN) – Taxpayers paid for Gov. Mark Sanford’s trip to South America for a trade and investment mission on which he began his affair with an Argentine mother of two. Sanford said this afternoon in response to that revelation from the South Carolina Department of Commerce, “That has raised some very legitimate concerns and questions, and as such I am going to reimburse the state for the full cost of the Argentina leg of this trip.”
State taxpayers paid more than $11,800 for Sanford and Commerce Department project manager Ford Graham to travel to Argentina for the trade mission to Argentina and Brazil last June, the South Carolina Department of Commerce said in a statement this afternoon.
Sanford responded: “As noted by the Department of Commerce, I attended a trade mission with the Department of Commerce last June. As the agenda notes, the mission was spent meeting with government and private business officials in both Brazil and Argentina. This trip was handled very professionally by the Department of Commerce, and I’m proud of their work there.
“However, while the purpose of this trip was an entirely professional and appropriate business development trip, I made a mistake while I was there in meeting with the woman who I was unfaithful to my wife with. That has raised some very legitimate concerns and questions, and as such I am going to reimburse the state for the full cost of the Argentina leg of this trip.”
In his press conference on Wednesday, Sanford said his affair with the as-yet unidentified Argentine woman began a year ago, and that he had met with her on three occasions. Sanford did not provide any additional details about the timing of these meetings.
The Commerce Department statement was issued Thursday afternoon after media inquiries about Sanford’s use of taxpayer money in the pursuit of his affair,
The statement focuses on the agency’s trade and investment mission to Brazil and Argentina on June 21-28, 2008.
According to the agency, a number of participants in the mission, which included private businessmen and -women, as well as government officials and support personnel, traveled from the trade mission in Brazil to Cordoba, Argentina to go bird hunting.
The invitation to go hunting was extended by S.C. Commerce Secretary Joe Taylor. The governor was part of the group that went to Cordoba for a day and a half of hunting. He then went on to Buenos Aires for a series of official state meetings.
“The hunting trip was paid for personally by the individuals that chose to participate,” said Kara Borie, the department’s spokeswoman. “The trade delegation did not accompany the governor to the meetings in Argentina.
“The governor was accompanied by a project manager from the Department of Commerce, which is standard practice for meetings with public officials and prospective companies,” Borie said.
According to the agency, the expenditures included: $8,687 for Sanford’s airfare; $1,910 for the Commerce Department’s project manager; $453 for lodging; $142 for meals; $130 for other travel; and $488 for project meals.