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S.C. Gov. Mark Sanford is censured, but won't be impeached

A panel of lawmakers voted to rebuke South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford for disgracing the office, but stopped short of impeachment. Sanford says he won’t resign, vowing to fill out his term through 2010.

By Staff writer / December 16, 2009

Gov. Mark Sanford speaks to the media in front of St. Philip's Church in downtown Charleston, S.C. Dec. 9. A panel of South Carolina lawmakers voted down a measure to impeach Sanford on Wednesday, but recommended a formal rebuke.

AP Photo/Mic Smith

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Atlanta

A South Carolina House committee on Wednesday found that lies, hypocrisy, and abdication of duty by Gov. Mark Sanford did not amount to “serious misconduct” under the South Carolina Constitution. In effect, that ends a bid to impeach what one lawmaker called “the AWOL governor.”

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Instead, the House Judiciary Committee unanimously voted to censure the former Republican presidential hopeful for bringing “ridicule, dishonor, disgrace, and shame on the governor’s office and the state of South Carolina.” The full House and Senate have to approve the censure resolution.

Governor Sanford disappeared on June 18, only to reappear back in South Carolina on June 23. He had told staff he was hiking the Appalachian Trail, but instead he had turned off his cell phone and had flown to Buenos Aires to visit a mistress, Maria Chapur, whom he later called his “soul mate.”

After ditching state agents responsible for his protection, Sanford had planned a 10-day trip away from Columbia, but returned after five days when he saw an item about his whereabouts on CNN, according to the committee.

“We didn’t need subpoenas, there was never a factual dispute, the only question is: Is this serious misconduct or not?” said Rep. James Smith, who voted against impeachment.

‘A culture of political complacency’

Beyond embarrassment over the affair felt by many South Carolinians, the investigation and impeachment proceedings became for some lawmakers a defining moment for South Carolina’s ability to break through what one lawmaker called a “culture of political complacency.”

“This will set the standard for what’s constitutionally acceptable with regard to character, integrity, and conduct,” said Rep. Greg Delleney, chairman of an ad hoc committee. “If this doesn’t amount to serious misconduct, I don’t know what does. What are we going to tell the people of South Carolina? If you’re a statewide official, character and integrity don’t matter?”

In what was at times an emotional hearing, Rep. Todd Rutherford blasted Sanford and lawmakers angling for censure, referring to the proceedings as a “kangaroo court.”

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