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?
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