A campaign ad about a 10-year-old spending battle in the legislature has candidates Mark Sanford and John Kuhn reliving the fight in their quest for the Republican nomination in the 1st Congressional District.
The former governor and state senator are accusing each other of deception following a new TV ad by Kuhn, a Charleston attorney who has an office in Bluffton. The two are among 14 others running in the March 19 GOP primary.
The ad says Sanford, as well as two other candidates who are S.C. lawmakers, supported a $250 million "massive earmark spending bill" in 2003.
Kuhn points out he successfully fought the bill, filibustering by himself on the Senate floor. He said then-Gov. Sanford, as well as congressional candidates Sen. Larry Grooms, R-Berkeley, and Rep. Chip Limehouse, R-Charleston, did not support his efforts to stop the spending in tough economic times.
Sanford's campaign is calling the ad "desperate and intentionally misleading" and has asked Kuhn to pull it. Legislative records support much of Sanford's case.
"There is literally no basis in fact for his ad," said Joel Sawyer, Sanford's campaign spokesman. "I think the only thing John Kuhn got right is that he indeed is running for Congress."
Kuhn refused to take the ad down, adding that Sanford's accusations of deception "are highly ironic, considering his history of lying to the people of the state of South Carolina."
So what's the evidence?
Kuhn said he had a conversation with Sanford in 2003 to try to persuade the governor to help him halt the bond bill.
"I personally approached Mark Sanford and asked for support of my opposition to the borrowing bill, and he refused," Kuhn said.
Sawyer said the conversation didn't occur, and Sanford never expressed support for the bill.
According to media reports from the time, Sanford opposed the bill primarily because it would allow University of South Carolina Sumter to offer four-year degrees.
Ultimately, Sanford did not get an official say on the bill, despite what the ad alleges. Kuhn's filibuster was successful, so it died in the Senate and never made it to Sanford's desk.
In 2004, the higher-education bill was reintroduced, paired with a plan to give tax credits to some manufacturers that make big capital investments and create high-paying jobs.
Sanford vetoed the bill, mainly because, he said, it was an example of "bobtailing" -- a procedure in which unrelated items are combined into a single bill.
"I am vetoing this bill ... that has numerous tack-ons, each containing their own complex policy considerations," wrote Sanford in his veto message.
Sanford threatened to sue over the bobtailing but later backed off. Ultimately, a Greenville man took up the legal fight. The S.C. Supreme Court agreed it was unconstitutional and ended the practice.
But the ad fight continues.
Kuhn sent out an email Thursday, calling Sanford out for a "made-up story about hiking on the Appalachian Trail" in 2009.
Sanford's campaign responded with a link to an article by the nonpartisan organization FactCheck.org that called Kuhn's ad false.
Follow reporter Gina Smith at twitter.com/GinaNSmith.