SANFORD: Deal could help him keep job, but legacy still in doubt
COLUMBIA -- When history writes Gov. Mark Sanford's legacy, will it begin with Argentina or Boeing?
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Four months after the governor's fall from grace, he defied the critics who said his sex scandal would keep businesses away from South Carolina and unemployed workers on the dole.
Sanford is not taking credit. By his own acknowledgment, it is his political adversaries -- among them Senate leader Glenn McConnell, House Speaker Bobby Harrell and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Hugh Leatherman -- who deserve the top accolades for landing the Boeing investment.
But Sanford also played a role. He told The Post and Courier Thursday that he had the ear of Boeing Chairman Jim McNerney, a friend Sanford met through his wife, Jenny, in the early 1990s.
"I don't think there is any value in victory laps or so-called vindication. ... I don't deserve any more credit than anybody else on the team because it was indeed a team effort," Sanford said.
Sanford said he had his "fair share" of conversations with McNerney about what South Carolina has to offer, including its low union presence, the cost of doing business and how taxes here compare nationally.
It was McNerney who phoned Sanford in his Statehouse office around 4 p.m. Wednesday to tell him the big news, about an hour before the announcement came on the Senate floor.
Key legislators had gathered in McConnell's office to receive the final word from the company around 4:45 p.m. before making the news public.
At 11 a.m. today in a ceremony in North Charleston, Sanford officially will approve the incentives deal that helped land Boeing.
But even the massive economic prize of Boeing coming to a state with one of the nation's highest unemployment rates may not be enough to edit Argentina out of his legacy.
Kendra Stewart, an associate professor of political science at the College of Charleston, said probably nothing Sanford could do would remove his affair with an Argentine woman from the forefront of his legacy.
"In the end, a sex scandal almost always permanently taints a politician's legacy, and it tends to overshadow all the good things they do in office," Stewart said.
What Boeing could do for Sanford is cool the current political climate that churns with talk of impeachment, Stewart said. The Boeing investment takes credibility away from the argument that Sanford's indiscretions and his week-long disappearance from the state will keep business opportunities away, she said.
Rep. Seth Whipper, D-North Charleston, said Sanford's influence on the Boeing deal is a separate issue than whether the governor should be impeached. Whipper, an attorney, is a member of the Judiciary Committee that is expected to begin impeachment proceedings in the House.
Whipper, along with fellow Judiciary Committee members Leon Stavrinakis, D-Charleston, and Mike Sottile, R-Isle of Palms, said they are reserving an opinion about impeachment until they receive all the facts.
The results from an ongoing State Ethics Commission investigation is expected to serve as the basis for initial impeachment talks in the House.
"Redemption is always available," Whipper said. "If he gets back to the business of being governor, the chances of surviving his term go up from there."
Stavrinakis added that landing economic development is in the job description for legislators and governors.
"This is our job; this is what we're supposed to be doing," he said. "It's not like we went above and beyond the call of duty. We should all be pleased, but we don't need an award for doing it."