Leonardo"s Notebook by Mattheus Mei

I have been impressed with the urgency of doing. Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do.

Friday, April 03, 2009

The Stimulus Money and Impeachment

Prior to his dubious "acceptance" of the Stimulus Funds, several groups of folks around the state were inquiring into the possible impeachment of Governor Mark Sanford. As some of the more easily outraged conservatariat noted - signs even appeared in the Upstate cleverly calling for impeachment and giving out the number of the GOP offices in Columbia.
The question then becomes, could such brinkmanship be grounds for impeachment and removal for office for access to the funds that South Carolinians desperately need, and deserve as a matter of settled law
Let's look at it, shall we?
SECTION 1. Power of impeachment; vote required; suspension of officer impeached.

The House of Representatives alone shall have the power of impeachment in cases of serious crimes or serious misconduct in office by officials elected on a statewide basis, state judges, and such other state officers as may be designated by law. The affirmative vote of two-thirds of all members elected shall be required for an impeachment. Any officer impeached shall thereby be suspended from office until judgment in the case shall have been pronounced, and the office shall be filled during the trial in such manner as may be provided by law.

SECTION 2. Trial of impeachments; judgment; proceedings no bar to criminal prosecution; impeachment of Governor.

All impeachments shall be tried by the Senate, and when sitting for that purpose Senators shall be under oath or affirmation. No person shall be convicted except by a vote of two-thirds of all members elected. Judgment in such case shall be limited to removal from office. Impeachment proceedings, whether or not resulting in conviction, shall not be a bar to criminal prosecution and punishment according to law.

When the Governor is impeached, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, or, if he be disqualified, the Senior Justice, shall preside, with a casting vote in all preliminary questions.

SECTION 3. Removal of officers by Governor on address of General Assembly.

For any willful neglect of duty, or other reasonable cause, which shall not be sufficient ground of impeachment, the Governor shall remove any executive or judicial officer on the address of two thirds of each house of the General Assembly: Provided, that the cause or causes for which said removal may be required shall be stated at length in such address, and entered on the Journals of each house: And, provided, further, that the officer intended to be removed shall be notified of such cause or causes, and shall be admitted to a hearing in his own defense, or by his counsel, or by both, before any vote for such address; and in all cases the vote shall be taken by yeas and nays, and be entered on the Journal of each house respectively.

At first glance there's the daunting task of getting two thirds of the members of the august upper body of South Carolina's legislature to remove Kim Jong.. I mean Mark Sanford. It would require 2/3s of 46 members or 31 Senators. As Indigo Journal and other groups have noted Sanford is not without his allies in the Senate. Advocates of public education and law enforcement have identified 11 senators definitely within the Governors camp but surely there would be other sympathisers for whom that precious (R) beside his name would way would weigh heavily on them even as they swear an oath to objectivity. So from the onset, it's an uphill battle that potentially lay bare the open secret of rancor and internecine warfare within the state's GOP. But there's something else...

There's an interesting clause in there, something that deserves a little closer examination and fleshing out. Do you see it?

If not, here it is:

Any officer impeached shall thereby be suspended from office until judgment in the case shall have been pronounced, and the office shall be filled during the trial in such manner as may be provided by law.

So it wouldn't take the removal of Sanford from office to free up the funds for use by the State in this hour of need, only an impeachment. This fiscal Armageddon, as certain Senators have called it, can end with a constitutional ruse. Unlike the Senate, Sanford's coterie of libertarian support is small in the house, and in this chamber where such winged monkeys are far fewer in between than the upper body there is no love loss for the Governor - especially from the Speaker of the House who only this morning reiterated his outrage with the ideological foolishness that the Governor so desperately clings to.

Even if the charges of gross malfeasance and neglect aren't enough to pass the muster of the Senate and remove Sanford from office it is enough to disable him long enough that those Republican and Democratic legislators can pass the responsibility. It would then fall on Andre Bauer, who has already said he's in favor of utilizing the money to shore up the budgetary needs of state government and preserve countless teachers, corrections officers, and other law enforcement folks from facing the ax and swelling the ranks of our unemployed beyond the already odious 11%.

Just something to think about this lovely Friday afternoon.

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