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Archive | Sanford campaigned for grant from program he has criticized

Mark Sanford urged organizers of a national convention in Charleston to apply to a Legislative grants program he has criticized for its lack of oversight.

The $150,000 grant to help organize the National Governors Association conference last August was the first approved by the competitive grants committee.

The governor's spokesman has said in the past that the program "has the appearance of a slush fund" and Sanford has urged lawmakers to objectively rank applicants or end the grants.

Sanford spokesman Joel Sawyer said the governor openly supported the grant and told his appointee to the board to argue in favor of the money.

Sawyer defended the NGA grant application, which included the projected multimillion-dollar economic impact on Charleston, and said the application was filed before all the program's problems were clear.

"Had we known what we do now," Sawyer said, "we probably would not have applied."

One Sanford criticism is the lack of a paper trail for how the money is spent, but NGA organizers have yet to file a required final report detailing how the money was spent.

Grants committee chairman Jimmy Bailey, a former Charleston lawmaker, said the governor is not being consistent.

"This is the crowd that vetoed the entire budget," Bailey said, noting it included $9.3 million for the grants program, "and they're talking about accountability and transparency?"

Conference organizers said they plan to file the report in the next week.

Chris Drummond, a former Sanford staffer who helped organize the conference, said the grant was one of many sources of money targeted for the conference -- including $1.2 million in private donations -- because organizers had just 10 months to plan. The conference was moved to Charleston from Biloxi, Miss., after Hurricane Katrina.

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Reach O'Connor at (803) 771-8358.

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