November 23, 2009 CNN
SANCHEZ: I want to start with some breaking news, Mark Sanford, embattled governor of South Carolina, accused today of breaking state laws, not one time, not two times, 37 times, according to the finding by the state ethics commission, 37 counts of law-breaking, which means Sanford's problems may transcend the political now, even as an impeachment committee is set to convene tomorrow.
You're going to recall the governor's problems began when he disappeared from view for something like five days last summer. It was a big story then, still is. Aides said that Sanford was -- quote -- "trying to clear his head" hiking along the Appalachian Trail.
But he was spotted then by a reporter getting off a flight from Argentina and then was forced to admit what we all now remember he ended up saying in a news conference, forced to admit to having a South American mistress at the time.
Since then, his wife has left him. She says the couple's separated. She is also writing a book about him. Any talk of a presidential run, forget about it, and now, on top of potential impeachment, 37 counts of breaking state law, much of it stemming from Sanford's frequent travels. Joining me now from Washington, CNN's Peter Hamby, who spent a lot of time chasing this story in South Carolina.
Look, we get the ethics thing. What I think you need to explain to us is how this becomes a criminal issue and specifically what crimes are we talking about.
PETER HAMBY: Well, what we're talking about here. And the ethics commission is not saying that he's actually broken a law yet. What they have found are 37 counts in this complaint that he may have violated state law by using his office for personal gain.
They list three different kinds of charges against him that they will argue in a hearing. They haven't set a hearing date yet, but they will soon. Many of those counts say that he upgraded from business class to coach on flights going back to 2005.
SANCHEZ: Sowhat? Is that a big -- who doesn't? Do you mean that they upgraded him or that he used money, public money, to do that?
HAMBY: Well, yes, exactly.
SANCHEZ: Is that what they mean?
HAMBY: Exactly. Exactly, that this was state business, that he used state money to upgrade.
SANCHEZ: Oh, OK. All right.
HAMBY: Right. Right. Right. So, he either -- the way that it's worded is, it says he used his official position for his own personal benefit by authorizing, approving and/or allowing the purchase of a business class ticket for himself on a flight from wherever to wherever.
HAMBY: It also accuses him or suggests that he used a state plane, state-owned plane to attend political functions around the state and the country and that he used campaign funds for his own personal gain.
SANCHEZ: So, the real deal here is not that he did what he did, which by any measure obviously looks like a foolish and just morally wrong thing to do. We all get that.
The real upshot here is the fact that he may have been using our money, I mean taxpayers' money, for this affair that he seemed to be having.
HAMBY: Exactly. And that's a big political headache for Mark Sanford. It's a big issue for him because his M.O. since coming to office and one of the reasons he was a rising national star in the Republican Party was that he was a champion of fiscal responsibility. And this whole fiasco for him, beyond the affair, these state legislators in South Carolina have seen him as a hypocrite in some respects, which is why a lot of them want him to resign and several are leading a charge to impeach him come January, when the session comes back...
SANCHEZ: And yet in many ways, when it comes to that measure, he is certainly not the first and most likely will not be the last in that regard.
Peter Hamby, great stuff. Thanks for bringing us up to date on this breaking story.
SANCHEZ: Appreciate it.
HAMBY: Thanks, Rick.