S.C. lawmakers recommend rebuke for disgraced governor
COLUMBIA, S.C. - South Carolina lawmakers voted down a measure to impeach Governor Mark Sanford yesterday, but recommended a formal rebuke that said his travels and trysts with an Argentine mistress brought the state “ridicule, dishonor, disgrace, and shame.’’
Most of the seven legislative panel members said the Republican should resign, though his affair, use of state planes, and a 2008 taxpayer-funded trip to Argentina were not serious enough to merit removal from office. Instead, lawmakers unanimously approved a resolution saying he has “brought ridicule, dishonor, disgrace, and shame not only upon Governor Sanford but upon this state and its citizens which rises to a level which requires a formal admonishment.’’
Sanford has been under scrutiny since June when he tearfully revealed a yearlong affair. Ensuing probes of his travel and campaign spending led to more than three dozen state ethics charges and the potential for $74,000 in fines. His second and final term ends in January 2011.
“We can’t impeach for hypocrisy. We can’t impeach for arrogance. We can’t impeach an officeholder for his lack of leadership skills,’’ said Representative James Harrison, a Republican who headed the panel.
Sanford spoke to reporters in Charleston shortly after the vote and continued to insist he’d done nothing out of step with the conduct of other governors. He said the support of his constituents has helped him persevere and plans to spend his remaining months in office focused on improving the state’s economy.
“There were days in the last five months when I could hardly get out of bed, I didn’t know exactly how you put the next step in front of the other, but it was their respective strength, their faith in me . . . that allowed me to get back up and put that next foot in front of the other. I want to thank them for that grace and that kindness,’’ he said.
Only eight governors have been removed by impeachment, and the only two removed in the last 80 years faced criminal charges.
Sanford still faces further legislative votes on the official rebuke. He’ll also be the subject of a State Ethics Commission hearing on 37 charges, involving his use of state planes for personal and political trips. The state attorney general is considering whether those accusations will lead to criminal charges.