Mark Sanford -Job Safe, Career Over

Down in the Palmetto State, a House of Representatives panel rejected a measure to impeach Governor Mark Sanford over various transgressions related to his disappearance in order to visit his mistress in Argentina, The defeat of the measure makes it unlikely the governor will be impeached before his term ends in 2011. Instead, House impeachment panel approved an official rebuke - or censure - of Sanford for bringing "ridicule, dishonor, disgrace and shame" on the state, its citizens and the governor's office.  The story in The State:

Sanford has been under scrutiny since June, when he returned from a clandestine five-day trip to Argentina and admitted an extramarital affair. Media, the State Ethics Commission and lawmakers have spent the past six months reviewing Sanford's use of state aircraft, business-class airfare and campaign funds.

Wednesday, the governor said 37 pending State Ethics Commission charges amounted to - at most - minor and technical oversights.

While Sanford's offenses were called "seriously stupid" - the words of state Rep. Garry Smith, R-Greenville - six of the seven impeachment panel members agreed they were not impeachable.

"We can't impeach for hypocrisy. We can't impeach for arrogance. We can't impeach ... for his lack of leadership skills," said committee chairman state Rep. Jim Harrison, R-Richland, arguing there were not grounds to remove Sanford from office.

The seven member panel voted 6 to 1 to spare Sanford but the once rising star of the GOP right faces a January State Ethics Commission hearing on 37 ethics charges that could carry up to $74,000 in fines. And the full Judiciary Committee also could revive the impeachment bill when it votes on it next Wednesday but that is considered unlikely. It seems that Mark Sanford's job is safe. His once promising political career - Rush Limbaugh had christened Sanford "the GOP's JFK" - it is safe to say is over.

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Uganda's Anti-Homosexuality Bill Linked to US Christian Group

Peter Tachell writing in The Guardian finds the British Commonwealth of Nations is but a Commonwealth of homophobes. Indeed, apart from perhaps Iran, Iraq and Saudi Arabia, gay men are most severely persecuted in the former British colonies now independent that make up the Commonwealth. Of the 53 current members of the Commonwealth, more than 40 still criminalize same-sex relations, mostly under anti-sodomy laws that were originally imposed by the British government in the 19th century, during the period of colonial rule. The most draconian laws are found in The Gambia, Nigeria, Guyana, Sierra Leone, Bangladesh and Jamaica. But these pale in comparison to a bill now making its way through the Ugandan Parliament that makes sodomy a capital offense. That's shocking enough, but the bill has ties to a conservative US Christian group whose members includes the high and mighty of American politics of both political parties.

The Anti-Homosexuality Bill 2009 is going through Uganda's Parliament after receiving its first reading last month. According to Clause 2 of the Bill, a person who is convicted of gay sex is liable to life imprisonment. But if that person is also HIV positive the penalty - under the heading "aggravated homosexuality" - is death. The mere touching of another person with the intent to have gay sex is punishable by life in prison. The bill also criminalizes advocacy of LGBT issues. Membership of LGBT organizations and funding for them, advocacy of LGBT human rights and the provision of condoms or safer sex advice to LGBT people will result in a minimum sentence of five years and a maximum of seven years for "promoting" homosexuality. Nor are gay Ugandans who flee their country safe. The bill has provisions for extra-territorial jurisdiction. The law, if passed, will also apply to Ugandans who engage in homosexual behavior while living abroad. Violators overseas will be subjected to extradition, trial and punishment in Uganda. There are estimated to be 500,000 gay people in Uganda, from a population of about 31 million, according to gay rights groups.

This weekend on the margins of the Commonwealth Conference being held in Port of Spain, Trinidad, both British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper told President Museveni of Uganda that legislation was "unacceptable." They might also have a chat with Senator John Ensign, Senator Tom Coburn, Senator Charles Grassley, Governor Mark Sanford, Representative Bart Stupak and Representative Joe Pitts among others because they are all members of a radical Christian group called The Family. The group which dates back to the 1930s more recently came to our attention for the shenanigans surrounding the affair of Nevada Senator John Ensign and the Congressional boarding house on C Street, but according to Jeff Sharlet, author of The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power, The Family is connected to the proposed anti-gay legislation in Uganda.

The Family, also known as The Fellowship, was founded in the United States in 1935. According to its founder, Abraham Verene, God came to him one night in April 1935, and told him that Christianity has been focusing on the wrong people, the poor and the suffering, "the down and out". Instead, God commanded him to be a missionary to and for the powerful, the "up and in", who could then pass off the blessings to everybody else. The group does not maintain a website and prohibits its members from speaking about its activities. The group is now run by Doug Coe. The group is also the sponsor of the annual National Prayer Breakfast that has been attended by all Presidents since Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Here's Doug Coe in action:

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The Mounting Woes of Mark Sanford

The Judiciary subcommittee of the South Carolina House began its hearings today on the resolution to impeach Governor Marshall (Mark) Sanford, which was introduced last week. The resolution seeks to remove the two-term Republican governor, whose term expires in January 2011 and is ineligible for re-election, for disappearing from the state for five days in June to visit his Argentine mistress in Buenos Aires.

The Judiciary subcommittee hopes to finish its work before Christmas. Its recommendation then would go to the full House Judiciary Committee. If that committee votes to impeach Sanford, the resolution would go to the full House. If the full House passes the resolution, it would go to the South Carolina Senate, which would try Sanford. If convicted, he would be removed from office.

Most observers believe that Governor Sanford's impeachment is unlikely.

Separately, the State Ethics Commission has charged Governor Sanford with breaking state ethics laws 37 times, including using state planes for family trips, spending campaign funds on a hunting trip and flying first class, instead of coach, while on state travel. The State Ethics Commission released its findings on Monday after a three-month investigation. In January, a panel of the State Ethics Commission will hear charges against the Governor on these ethics violations charges, which carry a possible fine of $74,000.  The Ethics Commission charges allege that:

- Sanford flew business or first class 18 times between 2005 and 2009 while on state business. Those trips included travel to Europe, Asia and South America. State law requires officials to choose the most economical fare unless there is an urgent reason to do otherwise.

- Sanford used state aircraft for personal travel nine times between 2005 and 2008, including a book signing, a birthday party for a contributor, a son's sporting event and a family getaway to Georgia.

- On 10 occasions, Sanford took money from his campaign account, donated by supporters, and improperly spent it on personal uses, including an Irish hunting trip and a GOP governors meeting in Miami. The money in question, a total of $2,940.68, was spent between 2006 and 2009.

More on this story at The State. The full complaint in pdf form is here.

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SC GOP: "It's Time for Mark Sanford to Go"

South Carolina Republican Chairman Karen Floyd and the state party's executive committee announced late today that it was time for Governor Mark Sanford to go and called on the Governor to resign.

The story from the Palmetto Scoop:

The tide of support from his own Republican Party officially turned against disgraced Gov. Mark Sanford Thursday as the South Carolina GOP called for his resignation.

South Carolina Republican Chairman Karen Floyd and the state party's executive committee held a 5 p.m. conference call before announcing that they had decided it was time for Sanford to go.

SCGOP spokesman Ryan Meerstein said over two-thirds of those voting favored the governor's resignation. He added that a letter from Floyd to the governor would be released later in the evening.

Sanford has come under increasing pressure to resign after allegations that he used state aircraft for personal travel, violated state law by using high-priced airfare, and didn't report the use of private aircraft. The State Ethics Commission is investigating the claims and is expected to release it's findings soon.

On Tuesday, House Speaker Bobby Harrell called for the governor's resignation, saying, "for the good of our state, Sanford should step aside."

The following day, the State House Republican Caucus sent Sanford a letter signed by 61 or 73 members asking that he resign.

Earlier in the day Governor Sanford held a press conference in which he rebuffed any suggestions that he step aside adding that he had yet to tell his side of the story. Sanford's use of state travel funds has come under state scrutiny since that revelation. He has reimbursed the state for some of the money he spent on a trade mission to South America.

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SC Attorney General Urges Ethics Probe of Governor Sanford

It is a day where sexual peccadillo and official malfeasance permeates our national conversation. First the John Edwards paternity report and now comes word that the Attorney General of South Carolina, Henry McMaster, has made a written request to Herb Hayden, Executive Director of the South Carolina Ethics Commission, asking for an official review of Governor Mark Sanford's use of state aircraft and other potential violations of state law.

The story in the New York Times:

South Carolina's attorney general said Thursday he wants state ethics commissioners to review Gov. Mark Sanford's use of state aircraft and any other potential violations of state law.

The request from Attorney General Henry McMaster follows Associated Press investigations into the Republican governor's use of state aircraft for personal and political trips, and his flights on commercial airlines.

McMaster, a fellow Republican who has said he will run for governor in 2010, made the request in a brief letter to Herb Hayden, executive director of the commission, which enforces the state's ethics laws.

The request comes amid high scrutiny of Sanford's use of state resources following the revelation that he had an affair with a woman from Argentina. After the publicity in June, Sanford reimbursed the state $3,300 for part of an economic development trip he took there.

A potential ethics probe was welcomed by the leader of the state Senate, President Pro Tem Glenn McConnell. McConnell wrote a letter to one of his colleagues and Sanford's most vocal critic, state Sen. David Thomas, who is conducting a legislative investigation of the governor's conduct.

McConnell, a Charleston Republican, said the investigations should begin immediately and include looking into any misconduct at other state agencies, including the Department of Commerce.

But McConnell, who has been largely silent on Sanford's affair and its political fallout, suggested that Thomas, a GOP candidate for Congress, tread carefully. He warned that the Senate would have to serve as an impartial jury if the House voted to launch impeachment proceedings against Sanford.

Still, not everyone is satisfied with the request. The Democratic Party Chairwoman in the Palmetto state, Carol Fowler, believes McMaster's office should handle the investigation. Calling the investigation by Ethics Committee "a farce" and "essentially the same as having Sanford investigate himself."

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