COLUMBIA, S.C. (CN) – Gov. Mark Sanford vowed to take legal action should the General Assembly hold an impeachment trial before a state ethics panel completes its investigation of his travel-related expenditures. Sanford cautioned legislators against turning the impeachment process into a “kangaroo court where you may as well base the whole thing on media headlines.”
Sanford has been under a cloud of controversy since June, when he disappeared for five days, only to return to confess a longstanding affair with an Argentine mistress he described as his “soul mate.”
As the scandal unfolded this summer, and questions about his use of a state plane and expensive commercial jet tickets added to his woes, Sanford has appeared to be drawn to the media attention like a moth to flame.
Every time another news story has threatened to usurp his place on the front page, the governor has called the media together and given the story of his infidelity a new life. The first time that happened was after the death of Michael Jackson.
On Thursday it came on the heels of South Carolina Congressman Joe Wilson’s calling President Barack Obama a liar during the president’s nationally televised address to a joint session of Congress.
But Sanford’s latest, hastily called “media availability” was different. For the first time Sanford met reporters with an attorney standing at his side, his longtime friend Butch Bowers.
Sanford, once considered a contender for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination, said the release of a preliminary report by the state Ethics Commission – now being sought by House Republicans – would be unfair, as it would not include his defense, and lawmakers would use its conclusions to justify his impeachment.
To turn over a draft of the report to lawmakers, Sanford said, threatens to turn the process into a “kangaroo court where you may as well base the whole thing on media headlines.”
“We have a real problem if members of the General Assembly are going to try to influence and truncate an investigative committee to get the result they want to go ahead on impeachment,” Sanford said. “I get that members of the General Assembly want me gone, but that’s been the case for six years.
He added, “It is not OK to short-circuit an ethics process to try to get the result that you want. It’s not OK to short-circuit the process where you get full control of South Carolina with no checks and balances from the executive branch.”
Earlier this week two-thirds of the state’s Republican party leadership – 31 of 46 members – asked Sanford to resign. In July, the same group had voted only to censure him.
Should an impeachment be undertaken, it will be the first high-profile case for Bowers since he and Kevin Hall, formerly partners at Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough, opened their own practice in Columbia, S.C. last month.
Filling out the team at Hall & Bowers is Todd Carroll, another former Nelson Mullins attorney.
Bowers is a former S.C. Election Commission chairman and was voting counsel for the U.S. Justice Department from 2007-08. He also worked as an attorney for U.S. Sen. John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign.