The outgoing governor known for his frugality has donated $250,000 in excess campaign cash to charities.
Sanford hopes his money finds a way into land conservation, a key quality-of-life agenda item he pushed during his two terms as governor. The state's constitution bars him from seeking a third.
At the end of October, Sanford had $1.1 million left in his campaign account, fueling speculation about how he'd use the cash. South Carolina campaign finance laws, like those in many states, limit candidates to using remaining campaign cash in another state campaign by the candidate, or as a gift to a charity or the state.
"We already gave a quarter of a million dollars to the Coastal Community Foundation," Sanford said.
Donor laws bar him from directing just how his charitable contribution is used.
"It couldn't be totally earmarked," Sanford said, "but in other words, the guiding principle in that particular gift was to land conservation in South Carolina."
The foundation's most recent annual report shows it gave out $11 million in grants in the fiscal year that ended in June and nearly $854,000 went to environmental projects.
Christine Beddia, a spokeswoman for the foundation, called it a significant contribution.
Sanford expects the rest of his campaign cash will go to similar groups around state.
"We've already given a quarter of a million dollars in that direction, I suspect that we'll probably give more," Sanford said.
He isn't alone in making major donations to charities out of campaign funds.
For instance, before he won a U.S. Senate seat this year, West Virginia's former Gov. Joe Manchin gave $530,000 to a charity he had established and $210,000 to a fix-up fund for the governor's mansion.
"The Governor's Mansion is the people's house, and he, as governor, felt committed to reversing its deterioration and helping to restore the home to its original beauty so that all citizens of West Virginia could enjoy its historical legacy for generations to come," Manchin spokeswoman Sara Payne Scarbro said.
Manchin founded Five Promises for Children Foundation Inc. in Charleston, W.Va. It's an affiliate of the America's Promise Alliance set up by former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell and his wife, Alma, Scarbro said.
"He felt it was critical to dedicate these funds to the local level to ensure that all children in the state directly benefit from this support and these resources," she said.