Commentary: Sanford should be impeached

Whether S.C. Gov. Mark Sanford will be impeached is a political question. Whether he should be is not a question at all.

If there were any doubts about Sanford's ethics and hypocrisy after he deserted the state for five days last summer and left no one in charge, those doubts were erased Monday with a report from the S.C. Ethics Commission.

The panel charged Sanford with 37 instances of violating state law. These are allegations, not conclusions, and we'll have to wait before the two sides have their full say. But even if Sanford's lawyers manage to get him exonerated of some of the charges, this is clear: South Carolina has been fleeced by a double-talking governor who has repeatedly used state and campaign resources for his personal benefit.

The S.C. Constitution is notably vague on what behavior warrants impeachment. Article XV says: "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..." Experts say the language was a deliberate move away from the more restrictive federal standard of "treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors."

That means impeachment does not require criminal behavior. So is Sanford guilty of "serious misconduct in office"? Let's see:

He vanished from the state for five days last summer. He lied to state employees and citizens about where he was. He did nothing to put someone in charge in his absence. He left the state with no leader and no way to find him in case of an emergency.

To read the complete editorial, visit The Charlotte Observer.