Rep. Mark Sanford, whose extramarital dalliance abroad while governor of South Carolina led to scandal, took his mistress-turned-fiancée, MarÃa 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 »
"The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday rejected a sweeping constitutional challenge to Seattle’s minimum wage law, in what could have been a test case for future legal attacks on similar measures across the country. In a one-line order, the justices declined to hear a case by the International Franchise Association and a group of Seattle franchisees, which had said in court papers that the city’s gradual wage increase to $15 discriminates against them in a way that violates the Constitution’s commerce clause."
Hillary Clinton may have the Democratic nomination sewn up, but Bernie Sanders apparently isn't buying it. Buoyed by a poll showing them in a "virtual tie," Sanders is "holding three rallies on the final day before the state primary and hoping to pull off a win after a tough week of election losses and campaign layoffs."
"The New Columbia Statehood Commission—composed of five District leaders including Mayor Muriel Bowser, D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson, and D.C.'s congressional delegation—voted today to publicly release a draft of a new constitution for an eventual state next Friday, at the Lincoln Cottage." It's the first step in a statehood push this year that will include a constitutional convention in June and a referendum in November.
Amid outcry by President Reagan's children, actor Will Ferrell has pulled out of a movie that makes light of Reagan's Alzheimer's disease. A spokesperson for Ferrell said, “The ‘Reagan’ script is one of a number of scripts that had been submitted to Will Ferrell which he had considered. While it is by no means an ‘Alzheimer’s comedy’ as has been suggested, Mr. Ferrell is not pursuing this project."