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S. Carolina guv to pay $74G in ethics charge fines

COLUMBIA, S.C. - Gov. Mark Sanford has agreed to pay $74,000 in fines to resolve dozens of charges that he violated state ethics laws with his campaign spending and travel, including a taxpayer-funded rendezvous with his Argentine mistress, the State Ethics Commission said yesterday.

The commission brought the 37 civil charges against the Republican last year. Sanford, who is term-limited and will leave office in January, still could face criminal charges.

Sanford said in a statement he thinks he would have been vindicated if the commission had heard the case, but didn't want to continue what he called "an endless media circus."

Scrutiny of Sanford's travel started over the summer, when the governor vanished for five days after telling some staff he was going hiking on the Appalachian Trail. He was actually in Argentina, and returned to confess a yearlong affair with a woman he told The Associated Press later was his soul mate.

The agreement came within minutes of a judge's decision yesterday afternoon finalizing Sanford's divorce.

The judge granted Jenny Sanford's request for an accelerated decision based on Mark Sanford's infidelity. In South Carolina, couples have to be separated for a year to be granted a no-fault divorce.

Jenny Sanford, who recently completed a book tour promoting her memoir about their relationship, filed for divorce in December. - AP

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