By SEANNA ADCOX Associated Press COLUMBIA -- Gov. Mark Sanford said Monday he regrets directing surplus money from a national governors' convention to a charity pushing his agenda because it gave his critics easy fodder. "It's completely legal, completely. But perception can be reality in politics," Sanford said. "Do I regret that? Sure, because I should have thought more about, 'Wait. This is going to be picked up, and you're going to get beaten over the head with it."' Sanford was criticized by a state legislator and government watchdog group last week, and ordered the surplus returned to the state's general fund. "I'm not perfect," Sanford said. A host committee Sanford set up for the three-day governors' conference last year in Charleston won a $150,000 taxpayer-funded grant and raised $1.2 million. Sanford ordered the $101,524 left over to be moved to Carolinians for Reform Inc., a nonprofit group whose members include donors to the Republican governor. Sanford called it ironic that the grant he secured -- one of hundreds awarded -- is the only one to receive such scrutiny. The governor has long been critical of the legislative grant program that has doled out more than $30 million in state money for local projects. "There have been statues for dead politicians, $250,000 for a golf tournament. There have been four pig-related festivals. There have been all kinds of different things," Sanford said. "The one time you end up with a surplus out of 450 grants, it's used to beat you over the head." He credited the surplus to discounts he secured from friends and blamed the criticism on "the world of politics, rather than policy." "There's a value in having critics because it makes you be that much more introspective about any decision you make because you know that anything you decide on can and will be put in a negative light if at all possible," he said. Republican Sen. Jake Knotts, who made the surplus donation public, said the scrutiny has nothing to do with who secured the grant. "You can't divert public funds for your own personal, political agenda," said Knotts. "This ain't politics for me. This is strictly right and wrong." Knotts, a retired law enforcement official, said there was no way to justify the transfer. "There's a right way to spend public money and a wrong way," he said. "I don't care how good his political spin master is." Sanford, who called Knotts "one of my bigger, less-than-proponents," said he checked to make sure he could designate the money. Governors in other states have put surpluses from the annual convention into nonprofits such as a state fair, a library and education. Knotts said Sanford could have given the surplus to groups that promote tourism and conservation and benefit all taxpayers, rather than a personal-interest group. Sanford,0re-elected last year, said he thought it made "complete sense" to put money he raised toward getting out his message. "I have seven years of my life invested in this process. I have 36 months left," he said. "The time clock's running. I want to maximize in every instance our shot at putting resources behind educating people further on why reform is so essential." The head of the government watchdog group Common Cause last week said the money transfer should be examined"by the state attorney general. A spokesman for Attorney General Henry McMaster said no formal request had been made.