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Sanford Criticized For Suggesting He May Refuse Stimulus Funds

South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, seen as a potential Republican presidential contender for 2012, is being accused of "playing politics" for declaring that he may turn down a quarter of the stimulus money designated for his state.

Starting Monday, the Democratic National Committee will begin running an ad in South Carolina in which an announcer says "South Carolina is facing tough times – but Governor Sanford is playing politics instead of doing what's right."

Sanford, the announcer says, is "turning down millions in recovery act funds. Putting politics ahead of health care, jobs and schools…Tell Mark Sanford to stop playing politics with South Carolina's future."

Sanford has been a vocal opponent of the stimulus package, which he alleges is filled with wasteful projects. But with his state's unemployment rate at 10.4 percent – the second highest in the country – he has become a tempting target for Democrats who are casting him as putting his constituents second.

As the Associated Press notes, high-ranking South Carolina Rep. James Clyburn called Sanford's decision "100 percent political posturing." South Carolina State Senate Finance Committee Chairman Hugh Leatherman – a Republican – is also knocking the move, calling as "tomfoolery" born of Sanford's desire to make headlines.

Leatherman, the Wall Street Journal reports, "introduced a resolution in the Senate Thursday to request the money if the governor refuses it."

Sanford says his critics are ignoring the fact that his decision matches his record.

"I've got a 15-year pattern of doing exactly this kind of thing," he said.

Like Texas' Rick Perry, Louisiana's Bobby Jindal and Mississippi's Haley Barbour, Sanford has said that he will reject a portion of the stimulus money that would expand unemployment benefits. He has gone farther than those governors, however, in also signaling he will turn down $700 million meant in large part for education programs if he is not granted a waiver to instead use the money to pay down his state's debts.

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