Politics & Government

The Buzz: After 7 years, Sanford discovers compromise

Governor, state benefit

Want proof that Gov. Mark Sanford may have changed his stripes?

The Buzz points to three recent examples.

- First, Sanford backed off a demand that lawmakers approve a top-to-bottom overhaul of the state Employment Security Commission during last week's quickie session to correct a glitch that restores unemployment benefits to jobless South Carolinians. During a roundtable on the issue two weeks ago, Sanford said he realized the problem was more complicated than he first thought. Then, last week, when legislators changed a formula in state law so that jobless South Carolinians can get extended unemployment benefits, Sanford signed it.

- Second, Sanford swallowed his pride and his traditional objections to the huge bundle of state-provided tax incentives used to lure roughly 4,000 Boeing jobs to North Charleston. In the past, Sanford has vetoed incentive packages, but he held his fire this time.

- Finally, Sanford stood outside the Senate chamber Wednesday and heaped praise on one of his biggest legislative opponents - Senate Finance Chairman Hugh Leatherman, R-Florence. Not only did Sanford give Leatherman an attaboy, he praised Leatherman for looking out for the taxpayer - among the highest compliments in Sanford's book.

So has the governor really turned over a new leaf following his Argentine summer?

The cynical say it's still politics.

- Backing off of Employment Security Commission reform spared the governor from lawmakers sitting around for hours on end, looking for something to do while a deal was hammered out. Idle hands, as we all know, are impeachment's playground.

- Vetoing the Boeing incentives would have removed impeachment as an issue. An angry mob at the Governor's Mansion gates would have removed Sanford from office.

(Sanford insisted Friday his position on incentives has not been an obstacle to big deals. The state has used "all kind of incentives" to win businesses since he has been in office, the governor said, adding he opposed expanding incentives to retail stores, which led to the fight over a Cabela's outlet.)

- Finally, praising Leatherman gets Sanford a photo op on likely the biggest economic-development day of his two terms.

But don't listen to the haters. The Buzz still believes people can change.

SENATORS RESCUE SANFORD; WORLD TURNS UPSIDE DOWN

One other highlight from Boeing-palooza Wednesday was Sanford's ill-planned appearance in the State House lobby, sans piglets.

Sanford had come up to thank lawmakers, shake some hands and talk to the media. In particular, the governor wanted to thank state Senate President Pro Tempore Glenn McConnell, R-Charleston, and Leatherman for spearheading the talks with Commerce Secretary Joe Taylor.

While the Senate celebrated in its chamber, Sanford held an impromptu press conference and waited on McConnell and Leatherman to exit the Senate's chambers. Soon the media ran out of questions, and Sanford was unsure whether to walk into the Senate - which, given his history, must be an intimidating place - or wait.

So he waited.

And the media waited.

And The Buzz and the governor shared another awkward silence.

After a few moments, McConnell and Leatherman appeared to receive their plaudits and break the tension.

Dems will be dems

With S.C. Republicans on the defensive because of GOP Gov. Mark Sanford's behavior, S.C. Democrats don't know what to do with themselves. So last week, when a Republican state representative introduced a resolution to impeach fellow Republican Sanford, th

Setting the scene

S.C. Rep. Greg Delleney introduced his motion to impeach Sanford "for serious misconduct in office" because he left the state for five days in June for a trip to Argentina, where he had a rendezvous with his lover. The resolution says Sanford left no one in charge and that was dereliction of duty while he "directed members of his staff in a manner that caused them to deceive and mislead the public officials" of the state about where he was.

Ready ...

"Mr. Delleney may have some strong points later on, but at this point, his proposal is absolutely premature. Might even be immature."

- State Rep. Walt McLeod, D-Newberry, asking Delleney's motion be ruled out of order. McLeod said the House should wait on the state Ethics Commission's investigation into allegations Sanford misused state and campaign resources. If "you file a proceeding before there are grounds for doing it, you have the appearance of having a kangaroo court and that is the last thing that the House needs."

Aim ...

"This ain't about the governor and I think too many people in here have personalized this. For me, this is not about Governor Sanford or saving him. It's about the institution and the processes of the House."

- State Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter, D-Orangeburg, who also addressed the House to oppose Delleney's motion, talking to the media afterward

Fire!

"It is absolutely unreasonable that any Democrat would jump to the aid of a Republican governor who was derelict in his duties the way that Governor Sanford was. And to see those two members do that to me was a personal embarrassment."

- State Rep. Todd Rutherford, D-Columbia

Cease fire

Speaker of the House Bobby Harrell, a Charleston Republican, doubtless relieved that Democrats - and not Republicans - were fighting with each other over Sanford, ruled Delleney's motion out of order.

Critics and snarks

The State Ethics Commission and the House took shots at Gov. Mark Sanford on Friday for the wording of his disputed Aug. 28 waiver of confidentiality concerning an investigation into his use of state planes and campaign money.

In that letter, Sanford wrote, "As you know, this administration has consistently gone the extra mile in fighting for transparency in our government," before adding he would "once again go the extra mile."

In a response to the S.C. Supreme Court on Friday, the Ethics Commission's attorney critiqued Sanford's waiver-of-confidentiality letter as "more wordy and self-congratulatory that most."

As for Sanford's position that his "unilateral step of waiving confidentiality" - his words in the letter - was not meant to allow the release of the Ethics Commission's initial findings? Too late, House attorneys told the court Friday.

Sanford already has waived his confidentiality, they argued, and much as he may regret that decision now - well, that's tough. "In short, the 'genie is out of the bottle,' and Gov. Sanford is trying to put the genie back in."

Whether intentional or not, that language harkened back to an e-mail to Sanford from his Argentine lover in which she said of their affair, "I don't want to put the genius (sic) back in the bottle ..."

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