S.C. GOP considers impeaching Sanford

Governor could be kicked out

By Andy Barr
|  Sunday, Aug 30, 2009  |  Updated 6:52 AM EDT
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Gov. Mark Sanford could be impeached -- if the S.C. GOP has its way.

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Fifty-six Republican members of the South Carolina state House met Saturday in Myrtle Beach, and not a single one voiced support for embattled Republican Gov. Mark Sanford, numerous sources inside the meeting told POLITICO.

But despite a growing number of calls for his impeachment, few legislators expect that Sanford will be pressured from office, 

Late in the roughly two-and-a-half hour meeting, GOP state Rep. Greg Delleney stood up to demand that Sanford resign because the governor has "disgraced and brought shame on the state."

"Can anybody in here give me one good reason, one positive thing, that's going to occur by him remaining in office?" asked Delleney, who is drafting impeachment articles against the governor.

None of the state's House Republicans had an answer.

"It was gratifying," Delleney told POLITICO afterwards. "How can you defend the indefensible?"

According to numerous sources inside the caucus meeting, Delleney was one of a number of Republican state representatives who stood up to demand that the state's party leadership call for a special session to move forward with impeachment proceedings against the governor. The legislature is not scheduled to reconvene until January.

Sanford was forced to admit to an affair with an Argentine woman in June, after disappearing for a week, during which his family and staff apparently had no idea of his whereabouts.

The meeting concluded a week that saw increased talk of impeaching the governor and Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer, who would fill the remainder of the term if Sanford resigned, saying that he would not run for a new term if he replaced the governor.

GOP state Rep. Michael Thompson told POLITICO that several state lawmakers are circulating and signing a letter that will be delivered to Sanford early next week demanding that he step down and threatening to move to impeach him if he does not.

"If he hasn't resigned at this point I don't think that he is," Thompson said. "Whether or not when all the cards are on the table the legislature actually starts the proceedings is anyone's guess."

Despite Sanford's resistance and the mounting calls for his impeachment, state legislative leadership is so far holding back from making any commitments on potential impeachment proceedings because it would take a two-thirds vote of both the state House and Senate to bring the legislature back to consider Sanford's impeachment.

And in a year when seemingly half of the state's legislators are considering, or have already announced, plans to run for statewide office, agreeing to any major move that would shift the playing field and create an advantage for one of the many candidates would be difficult.

"We want to be able to make sure that our decision is the right one, based on facts and not political motives," said Greg Foster, communications directors for South Carolina Speaker of the House Bobby Harrell.

Foster said that Harrell intends to hold off on calling for a special session to impeach the governor before the legislature reconvenes in January until a state ethics commission rules on the governor's alleged improper use of state planes for personal and political reasons.

"When we have that report in hand we'll be able to look at that and announce appropriate actions," Foster said of the ethics commission investigative that is expected to be concluded within the next couple weeks.

Foster also noted that "nobody [at the meeting] stood up and said he should remain governor."

One source inside the meeting indicated that Harrell and others in caucus leadership were hinting that they support Sanford's impeachment, but were not yet willing to come out and commit to bringing impeachment charges.

On Friday, Sanford waved confidentiality protections in the ethics probe against him, allowing the state ethics commission to confirm for the first time that it is indeed investigating the governor.

Sanford's decision regarding the investigation was part of a stepped up defense of his term.

"Our administration has nothing to hide," Sanford said Friday. "We would welcome the public to scrutinize our record, just as the ethics commission will do."

Sanford made the announcement at a press conference on Friday, his third in three days.

The governor has seemingly grown more defiant of his critics this week, targeting individual members with more pointed attacks.

Sanford held a press conference Thursday across the street from the law office of GOP state Sen. David Thomas, who is currently investigating the governor. Sanford accused Thomas of showing "selective outrage" in going after the governor for "political motivations."

While Sanford has successfully been able to grab headlines in state and national press for his attacks against his rivals, it has done little to endear him to other state lawmakers.

"He's out there lashing out at other elected officials, and that offends me. He has no moral authority," said Delleney. "He doesn't have the judgment or the competency to lead this state."

GOP state Sen. Jake Knotts, one of Sanford's most vocal critics since the affair emerged, told POLITICO that after watching the governor's press conferences this week, he was left even more frustrated with Sanford than before.

"The governor, I don't think, is in a mental state of mind to make the decision for what is best for him or best for the state," Knotts said.

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