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Sanford, Thomas trade jabs on travel dispute

For the second day in a row, Gov. Mark Sanford took the fight to his critics, traveling on short notice to Greenville to take jabs at fellow lawmakers and past governors but avoiding questions from reporters.

Sanford stood across the street Thursday from the law office of fellow Republican, state Sen. David Thomas, whose subcommittee is investigating Sanford’s travel.

Sanford accused Thomas of failing to conduct a real investigation, instead seeking publicity to bolster his campaign to unseat Republican U.S. Rep. Bob Inglis.

Later, Thomas defended his investigation as a search for the truth, adding Sanford is acting strangely and confrontational.

“If he’s going to do a real investigation, then do one,” said Sanford, who Wednesday sent documents — at Thomas’ request — showing the state has used taxpayer money to buy 230 business-class tickets over the past 25 years for lawmakers, state staffers and past governors.

“There is a much greater story to be told here,” said Sanford, who had built a reputation as a frugal conservative.

In a letter to Thomas, Sanford’s attorney said if previous governors traveled business class, it’s legal for Sanford to have done so as well — despite state law.

Thomas said he will verify Sanford’s documents, adding the investigation is not about political fingerpointing.

“I knew if I jumped into this I would be attacked and some people would claim I was doing this because I was running for Congress,” Thomas said. “I knew it would hurt me to investigate but I knew it needed to be done.”

Thomas said it is possible other governors may have broken the law, but his investigation, at this point, is about Sanford.

Sanford is defending himself against a recent Associated Press investigation that found he has used expensive business class airline tickets. State law requires the most economical form of transportation be used.

The Associated Press also found Sanford flew on state planes to personal and political events, and failed to report private plane trips on his ethics filings.

Sanford first came under fire in June after he disappeared from the state for six days on a secret trip to visit his Argentine lover.

Reach Smith at (803) 771-8658.

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