Politics

Anti-Stimulus Crusader Mark Sanford Quietly Accepts Funds He Pledged To Reject

Sanford5 Last year, South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford (R) led a group of governors in a high-profile war against President Obama’s stimulus package, claiming that accepting the $700 million for which his state was eligible would lead to “a thing called slavery” and was akin to “fiscal child abuse.” Sanford — who even went to court to resist taking the funds — and his cadre of governors “focused their ire, in particular, on provisions that pushed states to expand jobless benefits” to people who previously did not qualify for help, something Sanford “vow[ed] to reject.”

However, the New York Times reports that Sanford quietly broke this pledge and is now accepting stimulus funds to help his state’s out-of-work residents:

Two months ago, however, with the bright lights of political promise dimmed by a scandal involving an extramarital affair, Mr. Sanford quietly signed a bill passed by the Legislature that expanded eligibility for unemployment benefits. The move paved the way for the state to claim $97.5 million in stimulus money to bolster its financially ailing unemployment insurance trust fund.

The federal Department of Labor announced Tuesday that South Carolina had officially cleared its approval process and that the stimulus money was being released immediately.

The reversal by Mr. Sanford attracted virtually no notice, but it made South Carolina the 33rd state in the country to expand jobless benefits to qualify for its full share of stimulus money under the program, according to the National Employment Law Project, a liberal advocacy group.

While Sanford’s affair may have hurt his national political aspirations, it has almost certainly helped South Carolina residents, now that Sanford has set aside his personal ambitions to do what is right to help his state’s unemployed. The new federal money will help more than 17,000 South Carolinians who previously did not qualify for jobless benefits, such as part-time workers who were laid off, and “workers forced to leave a job because of an illness in the family or because a spouse moved.”

Govs. Dave Heineman (R-NE), Sonny Perdue (R-GA), and Phil Bredesen (D-TN) all also made similar vows not to take stimulus funds for jobless benefits, only to eventually relent.