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Senators get reminder on ethical spending

Charges Gov. Mark Sanford may have misspent campaign money on personal expenses are having a ripple effect among state senators.

State Sen. Wes Hayes, R-York, chairman of the Senate Ethics Committee, recently sent a letter to his fellow senators, reminding them state law bars them from spending money from their campaign accounts on meals and travel the state pays for.

"When a Member receives a subsistence or mileage allowance from the State and also is reimbursed for the same expenditure from his campaign account, such Member is reimbursed twice for the same expenditure," the letter reads in part. "The (ethics) committee believes that such act is synonymous with converting campaign funds to personal use which is prohibited."

Sanford faces charges by the State Ethics Commission that, on 10 occasions, he misspent nearly $3,000 in campaign dollars on personal expenses.

Hayes said he has no reason to think any senator has misspent campaign money.

"It's basically just a reminder. I don't know of any instances where that's going on in the Senate," Hayes said, adding the Senate's new research director thought it would be good to remind lawmakers of the rules as they head into January's legislative session.

Under state law, legislators can use campaign money from donors to pay for campaign costs and costs associated with holding office.

Hayes said lawmakers often tap their campaign money to offset the cost of holding office.

"The state does not reimburse you for a lot of things you do when you're in the Senate," Hayes said, adding he attends some meetings at his own expense.

In addition to a $10,400-a-year salary, senators get $1,000 a month for in-district expenses, a $131 daily allowance during the legislative session for meals and lodging, and the equivalent of one round trip in mileage weekly from their district to the State House.

State Rep. Roland Smith, R-Aiken, chairman of the House Ethics Committee, said he has no plans to send a similar letter to House lawmakers.

"I may remind them, but I don't plan to send out a letter," Smith said. "That's common sense that if the state reimburses me, I shouldn't take it out of my campaign account."