South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford holds forth at a press conference at the Greer DMV on Tuesday. He was mostly baited about the mysterious Maria from Argentina, and the fact that he was not wearing his wedding ring. (Photo by Owen Riley Jr of the Greenville News)
Yeah, sports fans, it got ugly!
More on the never-ending saga of Mark Sanford:
S.C. Senate's probe of Mark Sanford has little precedent
Only twice before has governor been investigated, historians say
By Tim Smith • Capital bureau • July 24, 2009
COLUMBIA — A Senate subcommittee today will begin what historians are calling an unprecedented investigation of a sitting governor in modern times when it convenes to look into the travel of Gov. Mark Sanford, with the governor and his family in Europe on a two-week vacation.
Sen. David Thomas of Fountain Inn, chairman of the Senate Finance Subcommittee on Constitutional Officers, announced the probe last week as part of his panel's oversight responsibilities. He has said it has nothing to do with his race for Congress.
Sanford announced June 24 that he engaged in a yearlong extramarital affair with an Argentine woman, Maria Belen Chapur. He denied spending state resources on the affair, but wrote the state a check for more than $3,000 after admitting he had met Chapur on an economic development trip to Argentina and Brazil in June 2008.
A State Law Enforcement Division review of Sanford's travel expenses on the five trips during which the governor said he met Chapur in Argentina or New York found no wrongdoing, SLED's director announced earlier this month.
Thomas said, however, the SLED review was based entirely on trips volunteered by Sanford. He said he wants a more thorough look at the governor's travel, to see where he went during the dozens of times he told his security detail not to follow him.
“It (the SLED review) only looked at five trips that zeroed in on Chapur,” Thomas said. “It did not look at the mass of trips and the issue that is in front of the committee, which is was there any misappropriation of state funds on non-state-related business.”
The other members of Thomas' three-member subcommittee may not appear today because they are on vacation, Thomas said, but he hopes at least one may attend anyway.
“If they can come, they can come,” he said. “If not, I can at least lay out the outline of what we're going to be doing.”
Thomas had planned to call SLED Director Reggie Lloyd as the panel's first witness but Lloyd said he couldn't make it on Friday, Thomas said. Lloyd is providing a memo about SLED's review but not the agency's formal report on the matter, Thomas said.
Jennifer Timmons, a SLED spokeswoman, said the report is “not available yet.”
The subcommittee's probe of a sitting governor is unusual, according to historians, and unprecedented in modern times.
A.V. Huff, a retired Furman University history professor who chairs the State Archives Commission, said only twice since reconstruction has the Legislature confronted a governor with an investigation or vote of nonsupport.
The last time, he said, was in the 1930s, when then-Gov. Olin Johnston demanded the resignation of the State Highway Commission, which refused, prompting the governor to call out the state militia to surround the agency.
The commission, he said, appealed to the Legislature, which refused to support the governor and the crisis faded.
“It was a political standoff, which I suspect is what is going to happen here,” he said, referring to Sanford.
The Legislature in 1872, Huff said, investigated then-Gov. Franklin Moses Jr. and he was indicted for stealing. Moses then surrounded the governor's mansion with troops to avoid arrest, he said.
University of South Carolina political science Professor Blease Graham said he doesn't know of any other instance in modern times in which lawmakers investigated a sitting governor.
“It is very unusual,” he said.
Officials in Sanford's office have reacted to the probe by Thomas' committee by saying the office will be cooperative but view the inquiry as unnecessary after the SLED review.
Thomas said he has invited other members of the Senate Finance Committee to attend.
He said he hopes the hearings can be finished in 30-45 days. Should the panel need subpoena power, he said it will need to request that from the full finance committee. He said his panel also might simply note that certain witnesses or officials were uncooperative in the subcommittee's report, should that happen.
Senator Thomas claims none of his colleagues have openly opposed the hearings. He says there are "innuendos" and "undercurrents" that he should not be continuing, but nobody has come right out and told him to stop.
I think they call that, talking out of both sides of your mouth.
Stay tuned, sports fans!