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Sanford 'Agonized' Over Past Argentina Visit

By Ben Pershing
UPDATE 3:56 pm ET: One more tidbit from Sanford's House career -- and a past adultery scandal -- seems especially relevant today.

After the 1998 elections were rough on the GOP, Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) announced he would step down from his post. Then-Rep. Bob Livingston (R-La.) was viewed as a shoo-in to replace him, until a dramatic Saturday morning in December -- the same day the House impeached President Clinton -- when Livingston went before the House to admit he had been unfaithful to his wife. According to a contemporaneous report in Roll Call, Sanford was one of a small handful of GOP lawmakers who told Livingston they could not support him for speaker in the wake of his admission of infidelity. Livingston stood down, and then-Rep. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) became speaker.

UPDATE 3:32 pm ET: Now Sanford's latest trip to Argentina isn't quite so secret anymore, as he's admitted that he was/is conducting an extramarital affair with a woman from the South American country. During his press conference today, Sanford said he had met the woman eight years ago. If that timing is correct, then they met in between his term in the House, which ended in 2000, and his tenure as governor, which began in 2003. It's not clear whether Sanford met the woman in question during a previously unreported trip to Argentina, or somewhere else.

ORIGINAL POST: Many moons before South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford (R) was in hot water over his strange, secretive trip to Argentina, he was a member of the House and a leading conservative in the chamber.

But even then, he encountered some controversy surrounding trips to South America. Official House records archived on CQMoneyline (subscription req'd) show that Sanford made two taxpayer-funded trips to Argentina during his six-year House tenure, one in 1995 and one in 1998. In both cases, Sanford was joined by multiple colleagues and visited other South American countries. Still, the jaunts didn't necessarily sit well back home.

Elected in 1994 as part of the Republican Revolution, Sanford immediately faced a dilemma when he was placed on the International Relations Committee.

"Taxpayers spent $10,000 recently to send Rep. Mark Sanford, R-S.C., on a congressional trip to Brazil, Argentina and Chile," The Post and Courier newspaper reported in June 1995. "Sanford agonized about whether to go, knowing such visits -- whatever the rationale -- are usually viewed as junkets by many out there in Constituent Land."

"I know politically it's not the right thing ever to go on any trip," Sanford told the newspaper, but explained he had to go anyway, because he was on the International Relations Committee and it was part of his job. What a trooper.

Sanford didn't bring his wife on that trip either, though some members did, and his biggest complaint to the Post and Courier was that his schedule "was a little overbooked."

He added that he thought most congressional travel should be eliminated, though that didn't stop him from going to Argentina again (and Chile, Columbia and Peru) in 1998.

One oddity: Sanford told The State this morning that "he has been to the city [Buenos Aires] twice before, most recently about a year and half ago during a Commerce Department trip." Was Sanford forgetting at least one of his House visits from over a decade ago? Or did one of those trips' itineraries somehow not include Argentina's capital and largest city?

By Ben Pershing  |  June 24, 2009; 1:54 PM ET
Categories:  Ethics and Rules , House  
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Next: Today on the Hill


It is impeachment time for the good Governor. There is a related post at

Posted by: carlyt | June 24, 2009 2:12 PM | Report abuse

Another holier than thou Republican bites the dust! I am laughing AT him. HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!

Posted by: mjwies11 | June 24, 2009 2:43 PM | Report abuse

Being a Republican and from South Carolina, I'm surprised he even knows where Argentina is. Nonetheless, I dedicate this song to him and to his mistress:

Posted by: sunnsea | June 24, 2009 3:08 PM | Report abuse

Just to save everyone a lot of time, maybe all the Republicans in Congress and the Statehouses ought to just issue a mass apology in advance for their affairs.

Posted by: sunnsea | June 24, 2009 3:10 PM | Report abuse

Are we certain it was with a woman? I didn't see the whole press conference, but in the part I did see he just said "a friend".

Posted by: lostinthemiddle | June 24, 2009 3:58 PM | Report abuse

Sanford had a Dirty Little Secret:

Posted by: caraprado1 | June 24, 2009 4:01 PM | Report abuse

His wife told him, after marriage counseling, to leave. I take that to mean he hadn't given up his Argentine "dear friend." While living apart from his wife, he made his ill-fated trip to his friend. Clearly he wanted to continue the affair badly enough to lie about his plans to his staff and not inform his family, thinking, I guess, that nobody would notice. Love turned his brain to mush.

Posted by: aguy7 | June 24, 2009 8:03 PM | Report abuse


Gotta say Sunnsea, you crack me up. Love it.

Posted by: rawreid | June 25, 2009 6:14 PM | Report abuse

I want to see a photo of this woman - must be a hotty, cause he just gave up his life for her.

Posted by: skimom27 | June 25, 2009 6:34 PM | Report abuse

he was hitting that stuff when it was hot, years ago.

Posted by: proudgaycuban | June 26, 2009 7:26 PM | Report abuse

There are several comments about Holier than thou Republicans as if that is a slur. It is not. It is possible to have morals that somehow seem impossible to achieve in your own strength...that is the purpose of believing in principles and morals. YOu can't do this in your own strength but must understand and be submitted to the one who can provide strength to turn away. The Governor spoke of David. He should not have. He did not even ask for forgiveness. He did not humble himself under the mighty hand of God who in his own timing could bring healing. There are many steps required. But because the Governor's wife "gets it" there is at least hope for her and the boys. The governor is not in love. He is in LUST. As such, he needs help but first must understand that the martyr approach won't cut it. He is a narcissitic ingrate. With true repentance he can be restored. But it is not his values that will restore him. It is his personal application of those values to HIS life. Democrats have challenges in the payment of taxes and the straying of Presidents. Republicans have similar challenges. But we can all be totally changed and restored if we learned how to come back to the source of REAL ethics and morals.

Posted by: dlb5 | June 29, 2009 9:33 AM | Report abuse

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