Sanford trying to be more open with activities, official meetings

COLUMBIA -- Gov. Mark Sanford's office released its first public schedule for the governor this week, marking the beginning of a new practice for the Republican, who told his staff last month he was hiking the Appalachian Trail and later admitted he had been visiting his mistress in Argentina.

It is not yet determined exactly what type of excursion - such as only those in which Sanford travels outside Columbia - will prompt a public announcement, said spokesman Joel Sawyer.

"I think the regular release of the governor's daily schedule is a good step in light of recent events," said Bill Rogers, executive director of the S.C. Press Association, which represents the state's daily and weekly newspapers. "It gives the press and public a running tally of what their chief executive is doing and who he is meeting with."

Some see the new schedule announcements as both a step toward accountability but also a calculated move by the embattled governor.

"What Gov. Sanford is doing is a fairly ordinary kind of damage control," said Steven Millies, assistant professor of political science at the University of South Carolina Aiken, adding that Sanford should have been releasing the information all along.

"There is no doubting it lends transparency and accountability to his daily activities today. That is good," said Millies. "But, it also is clever. By offering this transparency and accountability for his daily activities today, showing us the big changes he is making, he may distract voters from asking about those five days when the state's executive authority was A.W.O.L."

Dale Emmons, a Democratic strategist in Kentucky whose own governor, Paul Patton, became entangled in an extramarital affair, said Sanford's new public schedules offered cosmetic improvements.

"As a result of his poor choices, from now until his last day in office he should expect the press to be following him day and night," said Emmons.

Sarita Chourey can be reached at (803) 727-4257 or sarita.chourey@morris.com.

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