Sanford scandal ends with whimper: No impeachment

COLUMBIA, S.C. — A South Carolina House panel voted Wednesday not to impeach Gov. Mark Sanford for abandoning his duties and abuse of power, all but closing the door on lawmakers removing Sanford from office.

The seven-member panel, instead, voted unanimously to censure Sanford, which means the General Assembly would admonish Sanford for his behavior. But, Sanford would get to serve the rest of his term, which has roughly one year remaining.

Lawmakers said that while Sanford may have used a 2008 Argentina trade trip as a cover to initiate an extramarital affair and that his use of state aircraft deserved an S.C. Ethics Commission review, the charges did not meet the high standard they felt was necessary to remove Sanford from office.

The only vote in support was Rep. Greg Delleney, R-Chester, one of four sponsors.

Delleney said he will try to convince Judiciary committee members to vote in favor next week, but was not optimistic.

"It will be difficult, but I'm not giving up," Delleney said. "This is a political process. The political will is just not there. I'm prepared to accept the consequences."

Deliberations were emotional. One opponent of impeachment, Jenny Horne, R-Dorchester, cried as she explained the she did not nbelieve Sanford's actions rose to the level of impeachment.

Earlier in the meeting, Reps. Garry Smith, R-Greenville, David Weeks, D-Sumter and Walt McLeod, D-Newberry spoke out against the impeachment resolution.

Weeks, McLeod and Horne are all attorneys. Each argued the bar for impeachment is too high for what Sanford was accused of.

Late Wednesday afternoon, Sanford issued the following statement:

"In light of the ad hoc committee wrapping up its work today, I would like to make several points. One, I'd like to thank the Committee for its work, and for their deliberate and measured approach throughout the process.

"Two, we agree with the Committee's dismissal of 32 of the 37 ethics allegations. From the beginning I acknowledged my moral failing, and I apologized repeatedly. But in the same breath I said, as real as that was, what has been suggested with regard to supposedly not watching out for the taxpayer was just not correct; and that if there had been any oversight, it was minor and technical in nature. We are confident that the remaining five allegations will be dismissed just as the 32 were, because we have consistently tried to be true to the taxpayer. This has not changed, and it will not change.

"Three, I want to thank the people of this state for their kindness and grace. I was encouraged repeatedly in traveling across the state over the last several months by countless people telling me to 'hang in there,' and 'finish strong.' The people of South Carolina have given me great strength in this adversity I've created for myself, and I want to again thank them for it.

"It's my intention to finish strong focusing on the economic challenges facing our state -- just as we've seen with Boeing's record-setting announcement a month ago, with Crane Company announcing 1,000 new jobs in Barnwell County a couple of weeks ago, or with Red Ventures, where I was earlier today, announcing 1,000 jobs in Lancaster County. I'll also be focused on real opportunities for reform on the legislative front in making South Carolina more competitive in the global competition for jobs, investment and way of life. We'd ask that people from all corners of the state make their voices heard on this front."

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