COLUMBIA -- Legislators tossed aside 28 charges Thursday against Gov. Mark Sanford they deemed too inconsequential to justify impeachment and now stand ready to take up the most serious issues.
The House Judiciary Impeachment Subcommittee will meet again Monday to discuss trips the governor took to Argentina in June and 2008, before deciding to recommend whether he should be impeached.
The seven-member subcommittee agreed without opposition that Sanford should not be forced from office for the 18 first- and business-class flights he took on seven international trips or for the roughly $3,000 in questionable campaign reimbursements he collected. The third impeachment hearing lasted less than 30 minutes.
Sanford is also accused of using state aircraft for personal and political use on nine occasions between January 2003 and October 2009. The subcommittee is also expected to drop as many as seven of those flights from their deliberations.
"This isn't over," said Rep. James Smith, D-Columbia. "There is still a lot of evidence for us to entertain. We will completely vet all that is before us."
Smith said the upgraded plane tickets, which were purchased by the state Department of Commerce, and the campaign reimbursements in question don't rise to the level of serious misconduct, the threshold needed for impeachment.
But, Smith said, Sanford does walk away looking like a hypocrite.
"He spent his political career saying one thing and doing another," Smith said. "I think public opinion will convict him of that."
On Monday's agenda, the subcommittee will discuss for the first time a 2008 trade mission to Brazil that Sanford asked be extended to include Argentina, the country where his mistress lives.
Sanford admitted this summer to seeing his mistress on that trip and reimbursed the state $3,300 for that portion of the trade mission.
The subcommittee wants to know whether the trade mission to Argentina yielded any economic development for South Carolina and wants an explanation as to why the Commerce Department shifted policy to accommodate the governor's request.
Rep. Greg Delleney, R-Chester and a member of the subcommittee, filed the impeachment resolution that set the proceedings in motion.
He said that Sanford should be impeached based on his five-day trip to Argentina in June.
The governor left the state with no chain of command in place and misled his staff, who in turn misled other public officials, to believe that Sanford was hiking the Appalachian Trail, according to Delleney. Those actions constitute serious misconduct, he said.
While the subcommittee dismissed 28 of the 37 ethics charges against Sanford from the impeachment talks, the governor still faces up to $74,000 in fines with the State Ethics Commission.
A closed-door administrative hearing is pending.
Sanford is charged with using his public office for personal financial gain for his use of the upgraded plane tickets, the campaign reimbursements and the nine flights aboard state aircraft.
Attorney General Henry McMaster is also reviewing evidence to determine whether the governor should face criminal charges.
The subcommittee will make its recommendation to the full 25-member House Judiciary Committee, which is expected to make its determination before Christmas.
From there the impeachment resolution could be sent to the House floor.
Sanford's personal lawyer, Butch Bowers of Columbia, said he and the governor are pleased that the subcommittee removed the bulk of the ethics charges from their deliberations.
"This decision confirms that Governor Sanford has followed the letter and spirit of the law," Bowers said in a statement.
"We look forward to resolving this matter quickly and showing, as the committee's actions today demonstrate, that this administration has been a consistent ally of the taxpayer," he said.
On Thursday, Sanford visited the First Baptist Church of Orangeburg and did not attend the hearing.
He has an open invitation to testify before the subcommittee but has not been called to do so.
If the subcommittee does not finish its work Monday, it could also meet on Wednesday.
The House Judiciary Impeachment Subcommittee is scheduled to meet at 10:30 a.m. Monday on Statehouse grounds to take up the remaining issues of Gov. Mark Sanford's trips to Argentina in 2008 and in June and whether the two-term Republican committed serious crimes or serious misconduct in regard to those trips.
The subcommittee will also likely remove from consideration five or more of nine flights Sanford took on state aircraft that are in question.
The seven members will make a recommendation to the full 25-member House Judiciary Committee, which is expected to take up the matter before Christmas.
Two-thirds of the full House would have to vote to impeach Sanford. If that happened, the governor would be suspended while the Senate held its jury deliberations.
If needed, the subcommittee will meet again at 2 p.m. Wednesday.