Amid uncertainty over whether South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford broke the law and used state money in his trips to see his mistress in Argentina, the governor's chief rival told ABC News today that he'll pursue a criminal prosecution, even if he has to go to Washington, D.C.
Republican state Sen. Jake Knotts last week asked South Carolina prosecutors to launch a criminal probe. Knotts told ABC News he plans to pursue an investigation in the state legislature, the state attorney general's office and possibly even a federal probe.
"When you can't get results in your own state, there is a justice department in Washington," Knotts told ABC News. "I don't want to go that route. I want us to wash our own laundry and clean up our own act."
But Knotts added that he would go to the nation's capital, if necessary.
"Somebody's gonna look at this," Knotts said. "Somebody's gonna look to the bottom of it, and somebody's gonna give me some answers."
Knotts and others accuse the governor of leaving the state to visit his mistress without turning over control and charging taxpayers for an earlier stop in Argentina where he visited her. Sanford said last week he'll repay more than $8,000 for that stop, which he claimed was strictly a trade trip set up by state commerce officials.
State prosecutors say so far there's nothing to investigate.
"At this point we have not launched an investigation," Reggie Lloyd, director of the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division, told ABC News. "We don't anticipate it unless somebody brought us new facts."
The South Carolina legislature, which can call for an investigation, is not in session until January. It can be called into a special session, but staffers said there has so far been little talk about that. In the legislature's absence, the attorney general can call a probe, but some say that's unlikely.
Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer and Attorney General Henry McMaster are considered frontrunners in the state's governor race next year.
Baure told The Associated Press last week that Sanford should stay in office but admitted that he would have an advantage in the election if Sanford resigned.
Meanwhile, Sanford's office said he intends to remain in office for the remaining 18 months of his term, even though he initially considered resigning.
Sanford, who announced last Wednesday that he had a year-long affair with a woman in Argentina, told The Associated Press today that he spoke with close spiritual and political associates who advised him to fight to restore the public's and his family's trust in him.
"Resigning would be the easiest thing to do," he said, but added that he won't quit and has to "go through that voyage over the next 18 months."
The governor's wife, Jenny Sanford, has said whether he resigns or not is up to him.
"That is not a concern of mine," Mrs. Sanford said last week. "He's going to have to worry about that, and I'm going to worry about my family and the character of my children."
Sanford took a secret trip to visit his mistress a week and half ago even though he was advised by his wife of 20 years to stop the affair.