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Sanford attorney: Governor attended Republican fund-raising event in official capacity

Updated 9:45 p.m. Governor Mark Sanford has taken hundreds of flights on the state plane while in office, crisscrossing South Carolina for things like rotary club meetings and ribbon cuttings. The Ethics Commission alleges nine of those flights were illegal because Sanford used them for personal business, like family vacations or political fundraisers. The governor's attorney, Butch Bowers, argued Sanford made all of the flights in his official capacity as Governor and did not gain anything personally from them. Furthermore, he argued the legal precedent for a Governor's use of state planes is not always clear: Republican Representative Greg Delleney didn't like that defense: Delleny: "Mr. Bowers, is perhaps the reason there's no Attorney General's opinion dealing with partisan fundraising is perhaps because there's no need because it's so obvious you shouldn't be using the state plane to attend partisan fundraising events? Bowers: "I wouldn't speculate as to why there are no attorney general opinions. I would tell you Governor Sanford's use of the state plane in this particular flight - and all of the flights were talking about - was for official state business." In one trip, Sanford used the state plane to speak at a fundraiser for the Anderson County Republican Party. Bowers argued the flight was legal because Sanford was invited in his official capacity as governor and was not there to raise money for himself. Impeachment Committee Chairman Jim Harrison pushed back: "It's a fundraising event for the Republican Party in Anderson," Harrison said. "Raising money to fund Republican candidates in Anderson. That doesn't get it too close to the line in your opinion?" "No sir, no sir it does not," Bowers responded, "because he was there to advance the agenda items of his office." The panel of seven lawmakers grilled the Governor's attorneys about the flights for three hours. Most of them say they have not yet decided if there's enough evidence to impeach Sanford. And at least one, Republican Garry Smith, is worried about the precedent they might set if they impeach the Governor over a couple of flights on the state plane. "To sit here and split hairs over the issue of this flight I think really bothers me because we are talking about the legislative branch of this government taking an action that could oust the duly elected governor of the state of South Carolina," Smith sayd. When the impeachment panel meets again Thursday, it will examine charges that Sanford broke ethics laws in upgrading to business or first class tickets on state trips overseas.