Mark Sanford on Government Reform

Republican SC Governor; previously Representative (SC-1)


I was against earmarks before being anti-earmark was cool

[Colbert-Busch] cited Sanford's vote against the dredging of the Charleston port while he was a member of Congress. Colbert Busch said she met with then-US Rep. Sanford when she was working as a government liaison for a maritime company to encourage him to support the dredging project. Sanford, she said, indicated he would do so. "And, in fact, you didn't tell the truth. In fact, you turned around and did the opposite," Colbert Busch said to Sanford.

Sanford fired back that Colbert Busch later wrote him a $500 campaign-contribution check. "I don't think it must have bothered her that much, given she wrote a $500 check in support of my candidacy," said Sanford, smiling. Sanford also denied Colbert Busch's statements that he did not support the dredging and other economic-development projects, saying he disagreed with the methods of paying for the projects, not the actual projects. "Because I was against (congressional) earmarks before being against earmarks was cool," he said.

Source: The State webzine on 2013 S.C. House District 1 debate , Apr 29, 2013

Get legislative "voice votes" on the record

A couple of weeks after the 2009 session began, our movement received a needed boost. In his State of the State address, speaking before the general assembly leadership that had fought so hard against it, Governor Sanford thanked those who had supported the fight to get votes on the record. He singled out Rep. Nathan Ballentine and me and called us brave for "standing behind an issue that [we] believed in." Then he went off script and spoke a little truth to power:

"We all need to remember that the rarest of all political commodities is courage--that willingness to take a stand based on something you believe in, regardless of the consequences that will come your way," he said, looking up from his speech to the members of the legislature. "As we all know, there was a price that they paid for the stand that they took, and yet change has begun as the result of the stand they took." Governor Sanford was right. Change had begun. The people were starting to demand it.

Source: Can't Is Not an Option, by Gov. Nikki Haley, p. 71-72 , Apr 3, 2012

End unlimited and undisclosed campaign donations

We now have on-line transparency to allow a taxpayer to see more directly how their money is spent in state government. We found a way to begin on-line disclosure so that citizens could better see where money was coming from and going to in campaigns.

We passed campaign finance reform. It had been vetoed twice during the previous administration, and its passage ended the Wild West practice that allowed unlimited and undisclosed amounts to go to a political party or caucus.

Source: South Carolina 2010 State of the State Address , Jan 20, 2010

Change rules of governorship and state officers

We are the only state in the country that does not allow its Governor to administer the laws administered by the other 49 Governors. You would not be giving this power to me, I'm gone in 11 months--but for the sake of good government please give this power to whoever follows me. Please give them the tools by which they may succeed or fail, and then hold them accountable.

Two, put the Governor and Lt. Governor together as a team. To me it makes no sense to have a governor elected by the people, and yet have his Lieutenant Governor, who in our state could be of opposite political persuasion and party.

Finally, can we let the people of South Carolina decide on whether a host of constitutional officers should be appointed rather than elected. We are for instance the only state in the country where the Adjutant General is elected. We are not asking that any of you take a position for or against change in any of these changes, just that you let the people of South Carolina decide.

Source: South Carolina 2010 State of the State Address , Jan 20, 2010

Bring horse-and-buggy government into the 21st century

Bringing South Carolina’s horse-and-buggy government into the 21st century is key to providing savings to the taxpayer and improving government services. SC currently spend 130% of the national average on the cost of government, due in large part to a government structure that is duplicative, unresponsive and inefficient. We also believe the best way to increase government-wide accountability is to reduce the number of elected constitutional officers and have them appointed by the governor instead.
Source: 2006 Gubernatorial website, SanfordForGovernor.com, “Issues” , Nov 7, 2006

Limit campaign contributions but not campaign spending

Q: Do you support limiting individual contributions to state candidates?

A: Yes

Q: For PAC contributions?

A: Yes.

Q: For Corporate contributions?

A: Yes.

Q: For Political Parties?

A: Yes.

Q: Do you support requiring full disclosure of campaign finance information?

A: Yes.

Q: Do you support imposing spending limits on state level political campaigns?

A: No. I believe we need to bring sunshine to the political process in SC. Soft money donated to parties should be disclosed.

Source: 2002 S.C. Gubernatorial National Political Awareness Test , Nov 1, 2002

Term-limited Congressmen do behave differently

In the large unruly band of Republicans newly elected in the election of 1994, three stand out: Matt Salmon of Mesa, Arizona; Tom Cuburn of Muskogee Oklahoma; and Mark Sanford of Charlestown, South Carolina. They vowed that they would serve only three 2-year terms and then leave the House of Representatives. Wonder of wonders, they actually kept their word, declining to run a fourth term in 2000.

Sanford’s message is clear and consistent: term limits do make a difference. Imagine how different our government would be if the entire House of Representatives were term-limited. The tiny band of self-limited Congressmen did vote differently. The explanation here by Sanford is that the self- limited house members “don’t have to preoccupy themselves with reelection and career. Reelection fever is what leads politicians to exaggerate good news and water down bad news. People want something a lot simpler: they want the truth. A lot of people in Washington seem to miss this.

Source: The Trust Committed to Me, by Mark Sanford, p. ix-xi , Nov 4, 2000

Cut his own staff and returned funds for staff pay annually

I was determined not to have a typical congressional office. I wanted one that was small, effective, and dedicated to my program. I also wanted to spend less money on staff that did the typical incumbent. Most congressmen spend every nickel they get. This is hard to do since each House office receives about $1 million per year. Our goal was to treat the money as if it were my own. With this approach we returned over $200,000 to the Treasury every year I have been in office.

As part of the Contract with America, one of the first things we did as a Congress was to cut committee staff by a third. I thought it was only fitting to do the same thing with my own office. My naivet‚ stirred up a hornet’s nest. I was asked why I was being so stingy with the money we were given, even though it was “just government money.” We did cut committee staff in 1995. Today, were almost back where we started--with more staffers than we need, costing more than we can afford, to do work that often isn’t necessary.

Source: The Trust Committed to Me, by Mark Sanford, p. 10-13 , Nov 4, 2000

Supported 6- year congressional term-limits

The Contract with America’s tenth and most controversial item was congressional term limits. I gladly signed the pledge, but even as we gathered to sign the Contract, it was doubtful whether there would be enough votes to pass any form of term limits amendment to the constitution.

That we could even bring term limits to the floor for a vote was something of a milestone. Since the first Congress in 1789, more than 140 term limit bills had been introduced. The debate on term limits promised to be rough, and probably unsuccessful. Members were divided into three camps: those, like me, who strongly supported a three-term limit, those who strongly favored a six- term house limit; and those who opposed any and all term limits.

Those of us who had already pledged to limit our own terms could see that the proposal to enact term limits by constitutional amendment was dead in the water. Passage would require a two-thirds majority of both House and Senate

Source: The Trust Committed to Me, by Mark Sanford, p. 14-15 , Nov 4, 2000

Pledged never to take any PAC money

While my GOP primary opponent Van Hipp and I saw pretty much eye-to-eye on the deficit, federal spending and other issues, we parted company over term limits and PACs. Hipp had received baskets of PAC money during the campaign. I’d taken none and pledged never to take any, if elected.

On the issue of PAC money, my general election opponent, Robert Barber, raised the point that he did not want to unilaterally disarm when it comes to fundraising. Over the last five years in Washington, I have heard his argument used by Republicans and Democrats alike. In politics we never seem to like the idea of just leading the way because we think it right or what we believe.

Source: The Trust Committed to Me, by Mark Sanford, p. 40&46 , Nov 4, 2000

1995 government shutdown was a good thing, not a crisis

In 1995 if all you read was the Washington Post or New York Times, you’d have thought that the government shutdown was the worst crisis to hit the nation since the civil war. Once the networks joined in with pictures of idled federal workers, the pressure to cave in to Clinton escalated. But it wasn’t pressure from home. In my district, some people might be upset that their passports were delayed, or that certain federal offices were closed. But these were inconveniences for the most part, not crises. In D.C. itself, those furloughed federal workers didn’t form picket lines- they went shopping.

I thought the shutdown was a good thing. It didn’t bother me that certain federal agencies were temporarily closed. I knew that the important ones--like the Social Security Administration, the Defense Department and the FAA, were operating normally. The republic was safe, retirees were getting their checks, and the airplanes were taking off and landing without incident.

Source: The Trust Committed to Me, by Mark Sanford, p. 54-55 , Nov 4, 2000

Require that congressional pay raises have open votes

Most folks dislike sneaky people. So given the way Congress connived to boost its pay in September of 1997, people have yet another reason to dislike and mistrust Congress as a whole and politicians as a breed. If Congress wants another pay raise, they should vote for it openly, not tuck it within another bill. It’s understandable that some in Congress would want to sneak a pay hike into the first legislation that comes along.

Some of us tried to reverse the pay rise. We didn’t have enough votes. One of my campaign promises had been not to take a pay raise until the budget was balanced- because if congress is serious about spending less, we ought to begin with ourselves. Along with a handful of others I would donate the raise to charity, but once again we are losing on something I thought would easily be seen as the wrong thing to do.

Source: The Trust Committed to Me, by Mark Sanford, p. 68-69 , Nov 4, 2000

Voted YES on banning soft money and issue ads.

Campaign Finance Reform Act to ban "soft money" and impose restrictions on issue advocacy campaigning.
Reference: Bill sponsored by Shays, R-CT; Bill HR 417 ; vote number 1999-422 on Sep 14, 1999

Identify constitutionality in every new congressional bill.

Sanford signed the Contract From America

The Contract from America, clause 1. Protect the Constitution:

Require each bill to identify the specific provision of the Constitution that gives Congress the power to do what the bill does.

Source: The Contract From America 10-CFA01 on Jul 8, 2010

Audit federal agencies, to reform or eliminate them.

Sanford signed the Contract From America

The Contract from America, clause 5. Restore Fiscal Responsibility & Constitutionally Limited Government in Washington:

Create a Blue Ribbon taskforce that engages in a complete audit of federal agencies and programs, assessing their Constitutionality,

Source: The Contract From America 10-CFA05 on Jul 8, 2010

Moratorium on all earmarks until budget is balanced.

Sanford signed the Contract From America

The Contract from America, clause 9. Stop the Pork:

Place a moratorium on all earmarks until the budget is balanced, and then require a 2/3 majority to pass any earmark.

Source: The Contract From America 10-CFA09 on Jul 8, 2010

Signed term limit pledge: 6 years House; 12 years Senate.

Sanford signed pledging 6-year term limit

Organizational Self-Description: U.S. Term Limits, the nation's oldest and largest term limits advocacy group, announced that 14 new signers of its congressional term limits amendment pledge have been elected to the 114th Congress. The group includes five new senators, eight new House members and one House incumbent who signed the pledge for the first time this cycle. The pledge calls for members to co-sponsor and vote for a constitutional amendment limiting House members to three terms (six years) and Senators to two terms (12 years). The USTL President said, "The American people are fed up with career politicians in Washington and strongly embracing term limits as a remedy. Gallup polling shows that 75% of Americans support term limits."

Opposing legal argument: [ACLU, Nov. 7, 2014]: In U.S. Term Limits v. Thornton (May 22, 1995), the Court ended the movement to enact term limits for Congress on a state-by-state basis. The Court held that the qualifications for Congress established in the Constitution itself could not be amended by the states without a constitutional amendment, and that the notion of congressional term limits violates the "fundamental principle of our representative democracy 'that the people should chose whom they please to govern them.'"

Opposing political argument: [Cato Institute Briefing Paper No. 14, Feb. 18, 1992]: Several considerations may explain political scientists' open hostility to term limitation:

Source: Press release from U.S. Term Limits 16-USTL on Nov 8, 2014

Constitutional amendment for Congressional term limits.

Sanford signed supporting Congressional term limits

Excerpts from press release on Term Limits Caucus: Two U.S. Term Limits pledge signers, Republican Rep. Rod Blum (IA-1) and Democrat Rep. Beto O`Rourke (TX-16), have announced the formation of a Term Limits Caucus, which will work to build bipartisan support behind a constitutional amendment imposing term limits on Congress. "The root of this problem is that politicians are incentivized by the system to care more about retaining their position than doing what is best for the country," Blum said. "Our founding fathers never intended for public service to be a career, rather, serving in Congress was designed to be a temporary sacrifice made for the public good."

The new working group will marshal pro-term limits members together to pursue common ground. One of its most important duties will be building consensus around the U.S. Term Limits Amendment of three House terms and two Senate terms, to which both Blum and O`Rourke have pledged their exclusive support.

Supporting argument: (Cato Institute): We should limit members to three terms in the House and two terms in the Senate. Let more people serve. Let more people make the laws. And let's get some people who don't want to make Congress a lifelong career. Some say that term limits would deprive us of the skills of experienced lawmakers. Really? It's the experienced legislators who gave us a $17 trillion national debt, and the endless war in Iraq, and the Wall Street bailout.

Supporting argument: (Heritage Foundation): The only serious opponents of term limits are incumbent politicians and the special interests--particularly labor unions--that support them. Special interests oppose term limits because they do not want to lose their valuable investments in incumbent legislators. Many are organized to extract programs, subsidies, and regulations from the federal government--to use the law as a lever to benefit their own constituencies or harm their rivals.

Source: U.S. Term Limits 17MEM-USTL on Jan 26, 2017

Limit punitive damages; term limits on Congress.

Sanford signed the Contract with America:

[As part of the Contract with America, within 100 days we pledge to bring to the House Floor the following bills]:

The Common Sense Legal Reforms Act:
“Loser pays” laws, reasonable limits on punitive damages, and reform of product liability laws to stem the endless tide of litigation.
The Citizen Legislature Act:A first-ever vote on term limits to replace career politicians with citizen legislators.
Source: Contract with America 93-CWA11 on Sep 27, 1994

Government is too big, too intrusive, too easy with money.

Sanford signed the Contract with America:

This year’s election offers the chance, after four decades of one-party control, to bring to the House a new majority that will transform the way Congress works. That historic change would be the end of government that is too big, too intrusive, and too easy with the public’s money. It can be the beginning of a Congress that respects the values and shares the faith of the American family.

Like Lincoln, our first Republican president, we intend to act “with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right.” To restore accountability to Congress. To end its cycle of scandal and disgrace. To make us all proud again of the way free people govern themselves.

    On the first day of the 104th Congress, the new Republican majority will immediately pass the following major reforms, aimed at restoring the faith and trust of the American people in their government:
  1. Require all laws that apply to the rest of the country also apply equally to the Congress;
  2. Select a major independent auditing firm to conduct a comprehensive audit of Congress for waste, fraud, and abuse;
  3. Cut the number of House committees, and cut committee staff by one-third;
  4. Limit the terms of all committee chairs;
  5. Ban the casting of proxy votes in committee;
  6. Require committee meetings to be open to the public;
  7. Require a three-fifths majority vote to pass a tax increase
  8. Guarantee an honest accounting of our federal budget by implementing zero baseline budgeting.
Source: Contract with America 93-CWA2 on Sep 27, 1994

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Page last updated: Dec 15, 2019