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Questions over Sanford stimulus ad

From NBC's Domenico Montanaro
An ad is up and running for Gov. Mark Sanford in South Carolina, trying to sell why he opposes the stimulus money.

The ad features Sanford talking directly into the camera, making his case.

But the ad is paid for by Carolinians for Reform, a group that, a Dem source points out, received more than $100,000 "left over from the National Governors Association conference held in Charleston in August 2006," according to the Charleston Post and Courier.

The Post and Courier wrote Nov. 17 2007:

"Sanford's past business ties to a nonprofit organization that received $100,000 from a governor's conference bank account has lawmakers considering changes to disclosure laws and the state's competitive grants program. While no one has accused Sanford of anything illegal, some state lawmakers question his decision to donate the conference money to Carolinians for Reform Inc. given his ties to the organization. Among the group's directors is a former officer in a business owned by the governor's brother, and two men who ran a political action committee that supported Sanford."

In another story two days earlier, the paper wrote:

"The governor's office lobbied for a state grant to bring the National Governors Association conference to Charleston while publicly criticizing such legislative earmarks, the man in charge of the grant board says. While the governor's office denies the charge, some powerful senators are considering an investigation after $100,000 left over from that 2006 conference was deposited in the account of a nonprofit organization 'to educate the voters' run by friends of Gov. Mark Sanford."

There were harsh words then for Sanford, even from Republicans. State Senate President Pro Tem Glenn McConnell "says there are concerns, and gossip is spreading fast at the Statehouse," the paper wrote. "'It's disconcerting to see this type of political activity going on,' said McConnell, R-Charleston. 'The governor's office has tried to elevate itself above the element of politics and this story puts them right on the plane.'"

Sanford's office, though, dismissed the revelation today as "a non-issue."

Sanford spokesman Joel Sawyer acknowledged that the money was left over from an NGA event, but pointed out that the money was was privately raised and that it was eventually transferred back to the state.

"The transfer was legal, but out of an abundance of crossing t's and dotting i's" it was given back, Sawyer told First Read, adding that this is "the pattern from Democrats. They launched an attack on the governor a couple of weeks ago rather than trying to engage in the substance of the stimulus."

The Democratic National Committee fired off this statement on the ad, hitting hard on some substance:

"It's not surprising that Governor Sanford feels he needs to spend a quarter of a million dollars defending himself in a television ad after rejecting millions in funding for his state," spokesman Hari Sevugan said. "Then again, if I had rejected $700 million for schools and public safety, I'd feel the need to go on TV and defend myself too, but that doesn't excuse Governor Sanford for putting his political ambitions ahead of the needs of South Carolinians."

*** UPDATE *** Sawyer calls it "hypocritical" that Democrats would criticize Sanford for going on TV, when two weeks ago, the Left was on air attacking him for not taking the stimulus money.