Thursday, May 23, 2013

Well played, Ms. Sanford

Many people destroy the deeply personal papers that chronicle their broken relationships. Jenny Sanford, the former First Lady of South Carolina, seems to be made of sterner stuff.

In June 2009, South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford, who had told aides that he was planning an Appalachian Trail hiking trip and would be out of touch for a few days, tearfully admitted that he had been having an extramarital affair and that he had actually been visiting his mistress in Argentina.  Sanford's marriage fell apart, and in 2010 Jenny Sanford published a best-selling memoir detailing her former husband's stinginess, emotional tone-deafness, and other defects.  The book -- at least according to the reviews I've read -- also makes it plain that, politically, the two were well-matched. Both Sanfords are staunch conservatives, and she was his closest adviser and his phenomenally effective congressional and gubernatorial campaign manager.

Mark and Jenny Sanford's post-divorce relationship is apparently pretty contentious.  Nevertheless, when Mark Sanford decided earlier this year that he would run in a special election for a congressional seat, he asked Jenny Sanford -- who is now an adviser to South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley -- to serve as his campaign manager.  She said no.

Much to everyone's surprise, a few weeks ago Mark Sanford -- who is now engaged to his former mistress -- won the special election.  And earlier this week, the College of Charleston made available to the public the Jenny Sanford Papers.  Sanford said that she donated her personal papers to the college in summer 2012 because she was moving and needed to downsize and because she thought they would be of interest to scholars of political campaigns and, in future years, her sons.

In addition to political materials, the Jenny Sanford Papers include letters that the Sanfords wrote to each other, a scrapbook that she created to celebrate their fifteenth wedding anniversary, and photographs and other materials documenting their public and private lives.

Jenny Sanford has not restricted access to any of this material. Every item in the collection is open to anyone who wishes to see it.

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