S.C. House panel censures Sanford

Dec. 10, 2009 at 10:43 AM
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COLUMBIA, S.C., Dec. 10 (UPI) -- A House panel voted to censure, not impeach, embattled South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, making it unlikely he would be removed from office.

The special House impeachment panel Wednesday approved the official rebuke of Sanford for bringing "ridicule, dishonor, disgrace and shame" on the state of South Carolina, its residents and the governor's office, The State newspaper in Columbia, S.C., reported Thursday.

Sanford, a Republican, has been under the microscope since June, when he returned from a secret five-day trip to Argentina and admitted an extramarital affair. For the last six months, Sanford's use of state aircraft, travel arrangements and campaign funds have been reviewed by media, the State Ethics Commission and lawmakers.

Six of the seven impeachment panel members said Sanford's offenses didn't rise to the level of impeachment.

"We can't impeach for hypocrisy. We can't impeach for arrogance. We can't impeach ... for his lack of leadership skills," committee chairman Rep. Jim Harrison, a Republican, said when arguing about the lack of grounds to remove Sanford from office.

Sanford said in a statement he thought the State Ethics Commission would dismiss the charges against him. He said the 37 pending State Ethics Commission charges against him were, at most, minor or technical oversights.

"What has been suggested with regard to supposedly not watching out for the taxpayer was just not correct," Sanford said.

Sanford, who leaves office in 2011, isn't in the clear, The State said. State Attorney General Henry McMaster is considering whether to press criminal charges or turn the matter over to a local or federal prosecutor. Sanford also faces an ethics commission hearing.

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