Governor Mark Sanford’s odd and unexplained disappearance in June got a lot of national attention just because it was so unusual. He left the state without telling anyone and without a way to contact him. His wife even said she didn’t know where he was, while his staff thought he was hiking the Appalachian Trail. But when he returned and explained that he had disappeared to Argentina to visit his mistress, the admission left even his close friends dumbfounded.
But the Sanford affair is the just the latest in a long line of South Carolina political scandals.
(From left to right: (top) Lindseypoo Graham, Sparky Marky Mark Sanford, Jim Dimwit DeMint; (bottom) Earle “No Parole” Morris, John “Capitol Steps” Jenrette, Strom Thurmond, Joe “You Lie” Wilson, Tom “Things Go Better With Coke” Ravenel, Charles “Ex-con” Sharpe
Just two years ago, then-state treasurer Thomas Ravenel was indicted on federal charges of possessing cocaine with intent to distribute. Gov. Sanford suspended him from office. Ravenel later resigned, pleaded guilty and served 10 months in prison.
Former comptroller general and lieutenant governor Earle Morris is still in state prison on securities fraud charges. He was the chairman of Carolina Investors when it went bankrupt, taking about $275 million from thousands of South Carolinians.
Then-state agriculture commissioner Charles Sharpe was indicted in 2004 on charges of extortion and lying to a federal officer in connection with a cockfighting ring. He pleaded guilty in 2005, admitting to taking $10,000 in exchange for helping a group involved in cockfighting avoid legal trouble.
And in the early 1990s, ten percent of the state legislature was indicted on bribery, racketeering or drug charges in an FBI sting that was dubbed “Operation Lost Trust.“ The name aptly describes what that scandal and many others have done to the public’s view of politicians.
And politicians have been involved in scandals since the founding of our country, but many of them didn’t get the same attention they do now because of the speed and easy availability of information. A good example is Strom Thurmond’s fathering of a child out of wedlock with his African-American housekeeper. It happened when Thurmond was 22 and the housekeeper was 16, but no one publicly acknowledged the fact until more than 75 years later when their daughter, Essie Mae Washington-Williams, came forward shortly after Thurmond’s death.
From the Los Angeles Times:
True, Republican John McCain carried the state over Democrat Barack Obama, 59% to 37%, in the 2008 election.
But opposition to the Democratic White House seems to have reached fever pitch there.
First Republican Sen. Jim DeMint urged fellow conservatives to “break” President Obama by making his healthcare reform a Waterloo in his presidency, defeating him and his ideas with a big fat congressional rejection.
Then came Gov. Mark Sanford. […] The onetime presidential aspirant made headlines in February by threatening to reject Obama’s stimulus package money. Even the Legislature balked at that one.
Now comes Joe Wilson, the former Marine and six-term congressman who until Thursday was an obscure back-bencher. After his unprecedented outburst Wednesday night — calling Obama a liar from the floor of the House — he apologized. As Ticket reported, he also cut an ad asking supporters to send money to his cause. Because, as the Ticket also reported, Democrats have been sending lots of money to his rival, Rob Miller. In fact by this morning ActBlue’s efforts have sent more than $700,000 to Miller’s campaign coffers.
From Ethiopian Review:
Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) mastered politics in a state where no-holds-barred political combat dates to the days before the Civil War, when one of its congressmen entered the Senate chamber and beat a Massachusetts senator with a cane for attacking pro-slavery Southerners.
So when Wilson went so far Wednesday night as to heckle President Obama, interrupting his address to a joint session of Congress with shouts of “You lie!” he wasn’t straying far from South Carolina’s tradition of wild and woolly politics.
Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) called Wilson’s behavior “inappropriate.” Even so, Graham pledged to campaign for Wilson’s reelection, saying the congressman should not be judged on one incident. [And Lindseypoo thinks Sparky Marky Mark deserves a second chance, too.]
“People who know Joe Wilson like I do understand that that doesn’t reflect the man,” Graham said. “That was a mistake on his part from emotion about the issue, the consequences of where we’re going as a nation.”
Wilson’s surprising moment drew renewed attention to the Palmetto State’s history of colorful politics. Historians recall the state’s then-Democratic Sen. Strom Thurmond wrestling Sen. Ralph Yarborough (D-Tex.) in 1964 over a civil rights nomination, and Rep. John W. Jenrette (D-S.C.) and his then-wife Rita having sex on the Capitol steps in the 1970s. [more on Jenrette below]
To be sure, South Carolina Democrats have had their brushes, too. During 39 years in the Senate, Democrat Fritz Hollings infamously spoke derogatively of just about every ethnic group. When Hollings lost a 1983 presidential straw poll in Iowa, he reportedly said: “Well, that [Walter] Mondale imported a lot of them wetbacks across the Mississippi River.”
It was in these waters that Wilson, 62, got his first taste of politics. At age 11, Addison Graves “Joe” Wilson was a “pop runner,” delivering soda pop to election workers in Charleston. He became an activist with anti-communist causes in high school and while working as a counselor at a camp for Republican teenagers, Wilson met Roxanne, the camper who would become his wife.
A former aide to Thurmond, who became a Republican late in 1964, Wilson spent nearly two decades in the state Senate before winning a special election in 2001 to succeed another former boss, Rep. Floyd Spence (R-S.C.), who died in office. Wilson once boasted that Spence called him from his hospital bed as he lay dying and urged him to run for his seat.
In Washington, Wilson is known for covering his office walls with framed photos of Republicans and for filling cabinets with elephant figurines and busts of such politicians as Thomas Jefferson and Chinese leader Chiang Kai-shek.
Wilson revels in the pomp of Capitol Hill, once telling the State, a Columbia newspaper, that every day is “like Christmas.”
“I love parliamentary maneuvering!” he was quoted as saying. “I love the trees! . . . I love this view!”
But some colleagues see behind his easy manner a confrontational streak. “There are people who tend to look at him as this choirboy,” said House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn (D-S.C.), whose district borders Wilson’s. “He is really everything but that.”
Last month, Wilson organized a town hall meeting at Columbia’s Keenan High School — in Clyburn’s district. “He came into my district, the high school where my kids went, where I was an officer in the [Parent Teacher Association], and that was on purpose,” Clyburn said. “That was as unethical as one can be, and he didn’t say one word to me about it.”
The Honorable John Jenrette, an up-and-comer in the Democratic party, was one of seven Congressmen caught in the FBI Abscam investigation of political corruption. In December 1979, he was filmed by the feds accepting a bribe and then convicted in December 1983, sentenced to two years in prison and fined $20,000. The following year, the U.S. Court of Appeals upheld his conviction. And, to leave no stone unturned, Jenrette took his case to the U.S. Supreme Court, and the Court let the conviction stand.
It didn’t help having him on surveillance tape saying to an undercover agent, “I’ve got larceny in my heart.”
In January 1981, Jenrette’s second wife, Rita, said she was seeking a divorce. Rita found $25,000 in $100 bills (much of it FBI bribe money) in her husband’s brown suede shoes. Rita didn’t help relations with the constituents back home when she once called the “cornballs.”
Rita is probably best known for (1) telling us that she and John had sex on the steps of the U.S. Capitol (and that became a hot stop on the Washington Sex Scandals tour for out-of-towners; and perhaps the inspiration for the song and satire group called “The Capitol Steps”); and (2) posing nude in Playboy. She also wrote, later, about ex-husband John: she found him on Capitol Hill “drunk, undressed and lying on the floor in the arms of a woman who I knew was old enough to be his mother.”
But we’re not through . . .
Turns out the Honorable ex-congressman was charged with stealing a pair of shoes from a Fairfax County, Virginia, store. He was charged with petty larceny and altering a price tag at a Marshall’s department store.