WASHINGTON – House Democrats’ campaign arm ripped Republicans Thursday for pulling support from scandal-tinted former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford – despite having seen a parade of their own members flame out over high-profile controversies.
On Wednesday, the National Republican Congressional Committee said it would not continue funding Sanford in his political comeback bid. The announcement came after Sanford was accused of trespassing at his ex-wife’s home.
“Mark Sanford has proven he knows what it takes to win elections,” NRCC spokesman Daniel Scarpinato, said. “At this time, the NRCC will not be engaged in this special election.”
Sanford is running in a special election in South Carolina’s 1st District congressional race. It’s a position he held from 1995 to 2001.
Democrats were quick to pile on the new political turmoil surrounding the Sanfords. On Thursday, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spokesman Jesse Ferguson called out the NRCC for pulling their support from Sanford.
“The NRCC has set a new standard for themselves – they pull their support for Republicans in Republican seats because of scandals and controversy surrounding them,” Ferguson said in a statement. “Lots of other House Republicans have to be worried that they’re next on the NRCC's black list as scandals and controversies mount against them too.”
He went on to list a number of ethically troubled Republicans, and said “the NRCC best be ready to walk away from theses scandal-plagued Republicans next.”
But the long list of political and ethical wrongdoing isn’t confined to one party.
“Democrats are up to their ears with controversial candidates,” Republican strategist Ron Bonjean told FoxNews.com. “Before he (Ferguson) throws a stone, he should probably stop and realize he lives in a glass house.”
Calls to Ferguson for comment were not immediately returned.
Both Republicans and Democrats have been battling bad behavior from their candidates for decades and have had to choose who to support and who to cut off.
Despite Thursday’s statement, the DCCC has found itself in the same position before.
In June 2011, DCCC Chairman Steve Israel, for instance, called on New York Rep. Anthony Weiner to step down from his congressional seat after he was caught and then later admitted to sending sexually suggestive pictures of himself to women.
“Anthony’s inappropriate behavior has become an insurmountable distraction to the House and our work for the American people,” Israel said at the time. “With a heavy heart, I call on Anthony to resign. I pray for his family and hope that Anthony will take time to get the help he needs without the distractions and added pressures of Washington, D.C.”
In October 2010, Tennessee House candidate Roy Herron said the DCCC was pulling funding support after he said he wouldn’t support Rep. Nancy Pelosi in her bid to become speaker of the House.
Two years earlier, the DCCC canceled all ad support for Florida Rep. Tim Mahoney who was accused of having an affair with a former aide and then paying her to keep quiet. It was later reported he also had an affair with a second woman around the same time.
Ironically, Mahoney’s political career had taken off after he replaced Republican Rep. Mark Foley who himself had a very public fall from grace after admitting to exchanging sexually explicit messages with an underage boy.
Sanford’s well-known scandal involved his extramarital affair.
He first made scandalous headlines when he told staffers he was going to hike the Appalachian Trail but instead was discovered having the affair. Sanford admitted to seeing his mistress on a 2008 taxpayer-funded trade mission to Argentina. He ended up paying $74,000 to settle the ethics charges against him and was working toward reviving his political career, having just won the GOP primary in the special election race.
But court documents released this week show that Sanford’s ex-wife, Jenny, filed a complaint with police on Feb. 4, accusing the former governor of trespassing. The couple’s 2010 divorce agreement says neither one can be at the other’s house without permission and that seemed to be the last straw for his NRCC backers.
In 1976, the DCCC reached its boiling point with then-chairman Rep. Wayne Hays after The Washington Post quoted a secretary for the House Administration Committee he headed as saying her main responsibility was to have sex with him.
“I can’t type, I can’t file, I can’t even answer the phone,” Elizabeth Ray told the paper in its May 23, 1976 edition. Hays resigned as DCCC and committee chair soon after the article was published and eventually from Congress altogether.