Mark Sanford Won Exemption to Take Fiancée on All-Expenses Trip to Israel

(AP Photo/Bruce Smith)
National Journal
Shane Goldmacher
Add to Briefcase
Shane Goldmacher
Sept. 9, 2013, 12:05 p.m.

Rep. Mark San­ford, whose ex­tramar­it­al dal­li­ance abroad while gov­ernor of South Car­o­lina led to scan­dal, took his mis­tress-turned-fiancée, María Belén Chapur, to Is­rael in Au­gust, on a trip paid for by the Amer­ic­an Is­rael Edu­ca­tion Found­a­tion, con­gres­sion­al re­cords show.

Such privately fun­ded trips are typ­ic­ally lim­ited to re­l­at­ives, but San­ford, a Re­pub­lic­an who won a House seat in a spe­cial elec­tion earli­er in the year, asked for and re­ceived a spe­cial ex­emp­tion to take Belén Chapur along.

San­ford gave a two-word an­swer on the con­gres­sion­al travel form when asked why he wanted to par­ti­cip­ate in the Is­rael trip. “Edu­ca­tion­al pur­poses,” he wrote.

The Amer­ic­an Is­rael Edu­ca­tion Found­a­tion spent more than $18,558 to fly San­ford and his fiancée to and from Is­rael for the weeklong jour­ney. They flew busi­ness class, re­cords show, with round-trip flights that cost more than $5,000 apiece. They were part of a del­eg­a­tion of roughly two dozen Re­pub­lic­ans, in­clud­ing House Ma­jor­ity Lead­er Eric Can­tor and House Ma­jor­ity Whip Kev­in Mc­Carthy.

Many law­makers bring their spouses along on such trips. Both Can­tor and Mc­Carthy took their wives. But for San­ford to take Belén Chapur, he had to ask the House Eth­ics Com­mit­tee for a waiver. Con­gres­sion­al travel rules say those in­di­vidu­als ac­com­pa­ny­ing law­makers on privately fun­ded trips are sup­posed to be re­l­at­ives.

The Eth­ics Com­mit­tee, in a let­ter to San­ford, noted that “fiancés/fiancées and un­mar­ried sig­ni­fic­ant oth­ers are not ‘re­l­at­ives’ for pur­poses of these [travel] reg­u­la­tions.” The pan­el non­ethe­less ap­proved her travel, not­ing that the reg­u­la­tions al­low “trav­el­ers to seek ad­vance, writ­ten per­mis­sion from the com­mit­tee to be ac­com­pan­ied by a non-re­l­at­ive.”

Con­gres­sion­al travel re­cords show that San­ford asked for an ex­emp­tion on Ju­ly 10. “AIEF has made an un­so­li­cited of­fer to pay for the ex­penses of her travel,” San­ford told the Eth­ics Com­mit­tee.

The pan­el, which is led by Chair­man Mike Con­away, R-Texas, and rank­ing mem­ber Linda Sanc­hez, D-Cal­if., ap­proved Belén Chapur’s travel on Ju­ly 24. The two law­makers wrote that they had the power “to grant a waiver “¦ in ‘an un­usu­al case,’ provided ‘there is no po­ten­tial con­flict or in­terest or ap­pear­ance of im­pro­pri­ety.’ “

The couple de­par­ted for Is­rael on Aug. 10 and re­turned Aug. 18. The web­site Le­giS­torm, which tracks con­gres­sion­al travel, first noted the par­ti­cip­a­tion of Belén Chapur on the trip, which in­cluded stops in Jer­u­s­alem, Beth­le­hem, Tel Aviv, and the Sea of Ga­lilee.

San­ford’s of­fice did not im­me­di­ately re­spond to a re­quest for com­ment.

While gov­ernor of South Car­o­lina in 2009, San­ford dis­ap­peared for a week, as his staff said he had gone hik­ing on the Ap­palachi­an Trail. It was later re­vealed that he had traveled to Ar­gen­tina, where he was hav­ing an af­fair with Belén Chapur. He and his wife sub­sequently di­vorced, and he served out his term as gov­ernor des­pite be­ing cen­sured by state law­makers.

San­ford was left for dead, polit­ic­ally, after he de­par­ted the gov­ernor’s of­fice in 2011. But the sur­prise resig­na­tion of then-Sen. Jim De­Mint, R-S.C., and the ap­point­ment of Tim Scott, R-S.C., opened up a House seat this year. San­ford ran in a spe­cial elec­tion, beat­ing out Demo­crat­ic nom­in­ee Eliza­beth Col­bert Busch, the sis­ter of tele­vi­sion per­son­al­ity Steph­en Col­bert.

What We're Following See More »
2-MONTH GIG OR 8-YEAR GIG?
Alec Baldwin to Play Trump on ‘SNL’
59 minutes ago
THE DETAILS
STRIKES DOWN NEW HAMPSHIRE BAN
Court: Selfies in Voting Booth Now OK
3 hours ago
WHY WE CARE
WILL LEAD U.S. DELEGATION
Obama to Travel to Israel for Peres’s Funeral
3 hours ago
THE DETAILS
FOUR-POINT LEAD IN FOUR-WAY RACE
Reuters/Ipsos Shows Clinton Ahead by 6
3 hours ago
THE LATEST

In one of the first polls released since Monday night's debate, a Reuters/Ipsos survey shows Hillary Clinton leading Donald Trump 44%-38%. When third-party candidates are thrown into the mix, Clinton's share of the vote drops to 42%, with Gary Johnson picking up 7% and Jill Stein at 2%.

Source:
NO SHUTDOWN
Senate Votes to Fund Government
4 hours ago
THE LATEST

The Senate voted on Wednesday 72-26 on a bill to fund the government through Dec. 9, averting a looming shutdown. The legislation will now go to the House, where it could be voted on as early as Wednesday. After this legislation is approved by the House, Congress will recess until the lame-duck session following elections.

×