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.
- 1 Emails May Be a Key to Addressing ‘Pay-to-Play’ Whispers at Clinton Foundation
- 2 Hillary Clinton’s Potential Senate GOP Partners
- 3 How Black Middle-Class Kids Become Poor Adults
- 4 A Look at Late-Term Abortion Restrictions, State by State
- 5 On the Road for Clinton, Sanders Pushes Ballot Initiatives
What We're Following See More »
Hillary Clinton leads Donald Trump 49%-44% in a new CNN/ORC poll out Monday afternoon. But it's Gary Johnson's performance, or lack thereof, that's the real story. Johnson, who had cleared 10% in some surveys earlier this fall, as he made a bid to qualify for the debates, is down to 3% support. He must hit 5% nationwide for the Libertarian Party to qualify for some federal matching funds in future elections.
While the organization praised him for being "perhaps the most pro-LGBT presidential nominee in the history of the Republican Party," the Log Cabin Republicans refused to endorse Donald Trump for president. The organization, which is the largest gay organization in the United States, said that Trump failed to earn its endorsement because he surrounded himself with anti-LGBTQ people "and committed himself to supporting legislation such as the so-called 'First Amendment Defense Act' that Log Cabin Republicans opposes."
Energy Secretary Ernesto Moniz is warning Congress "that Congress and businesses need to act with more urgency to work out a medley of challenges in promoting nuclear power." A number of nuclear plants are currently on track to close around 2030, unless their licenses are extended from 60 years to 80 years, something that could jeopardize the success of the Clean Power Plan. Moniz called on Congress to pass legislation creating interim storage facilities for used nuclear power.
Donald Trump has said he received a $17 million insurance payment in 2005 following Hurricane Wilma, which he claimed did severe damage to his private club in Florida. However, an Associated Press investigation could not find any evidence of the large-scale damage that Trump has mentioned. Additionally, Trump claimed that he transferred some of the $17 million to his personal account thanks to a "very good insurance policy."