Gov. Mark Sanford's attorneys were absolutely right when they argued that Mr. Sanford's use of the state plane did not justify taking the extraordinary step of removing a sitting governor form office.
But the fact that they were right, and that six of the seven members of the House impeachment panel wisely agreed with that, should not be seen as an endorsement of the other two defenses the governor's team made of Mr. Sanford's use of state aircraft.
Since those other two defenses will no doubt re-emerge as the governor fights ethics charges pending in the State Ethics Commission and any criminal charges that might be brought, it's worth taking a moment to understand them, and what's wrong with them.
The simplest defense is that even if the governor used the state plane for something other than official state business, he didn't violate state law because he did not obtain a personal "economic interest" from the flights, which triggers a violation of the state ethics law.
Now, there are ways of lawyering up the statute and ignoring clear grammatical rules to reach this conclusion; they usually involve concentrating on the part of the definition of "economic interest" that relates to purchases, sales and leases. But the definition of what state officials can't use their positions for also includes any "arrangement involving property or services in which a public official ... may gain an economic benefit of fifty dollars or more."
Getting the state plane to take you from a meeting in West Virginia to the Georgia coast instead of back to Columbia, so you don't have to spend the time and money driving or flying from Columbia to the Georgia coast, seems pretty clearly to meet that definition.
To read the complete editorial, visit The State (Columbia, S.C.).