grand dunes

South Carolina Republican House members and their staffers – along with the lobbyists and political “clingers” who follow their every move – began traveling to Myrtle Beach, S.C. today for the annual GOP Caucus meeting.

Ordinarily a time for House Republicans to prepare their “agenda” (i.e. spit out a bunch of regurgitated talking points while they get drunk and play golf), this year’s meeting has taken on a circus-like atmosphere given the ongoing drama surrounding S.C. Gov. Mark Sanford.

Numerous news outlets – including national mainstream media – are sending reporters to the event, which is being held at the luxurious Marriott Resort and Spa and Grande Dunes.

What’s on the agenda?

One thing and one thing only: Impeachment.

Specifically, House Republicans are looking to develop a strategy for dealing with a wayward governor who does not want to “go gently” back to his Lowcountry plantation in the wake of a string of scandals and bad publicity for the state.

Earlier this summer, Sanford admitted to having an extramarital affair with his Latin lover, Maria Belen Chapur, an acknowledgment which has prompted intense scrutiny of all aspects of his administration. Examination of the governor’s travel, in particular, has yielded a number of abuses – beginning with a 2008 trip to Argentina that appears to have been arranged entirely for the purpose of permitting Sanford to see his lover.

Sanford refunded taxpayers for his expenses related to that trip (a year after the fact), but he has not reimbursed us for the taxpayer time and resources that went into setting it up.

Additionally, Sanford has received first-class plane ticket upgrades in violation of state policy, misused the state plane for personal and political reasons and failed to report numerous airplane flights that were provided to him by friends and political allies.

At the request of S.C. Attorney General Henry McMaster, Sanford is currently being investigated by the state’s Ethics Commission – but that inquiry has drawn criticism due to the fact that the governor appoints all of the commission members, and several of those appointments have given money to Sanford’s campaigns. Also, the Ethics Commission is powerless and notoriously lax in enforcing its responsibilities.

In light of all this, a growing number of House members – including several of Sanford’s closest ideological allies – are asking for his resignation.

Could Sanford’s fate be decided this weekend?

Clearly, the State Senate has the votes to remove the governor from office in the event the House impeaches him. But will they?

For reasons unknown (but widely speculated upon), S.C. House Speaker Bobby Harrell has been reluctant to embrace the notion of impeaching the governor. Some say Harrell has skeletons in his own closet, others say

Either way, Harrell’s reticence to move against Sanford has unleashed a movement within the GOP caucus that threatens his power base.

Already clinging tenuously to a Democrat-RINO governing majority, Harrell now finds Democrats and “conservative” Republicans united behind impeaching Sanford.

All that’s left are the fifteen to twenty RINOs he carries around in his pocket.

“This could be a defining moment for Bobby,” said a source close to the Caucus leadership.

As reported last week by FITS, a group of Republicans has already begun the process of preparing impeachment documents against the governor.

That movement gained momentum yesterday when S.C. Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer called on Sanford to resign. Bauer also said he would not seek the governor’s office in 2010 if Sanford resigned within a month.

Bauer’s political calculus is designed to allay the fears of House Republicans who are loyal to McMaster. These politicians fear that if Bauer ascends to the top spot, he would use the remainder of Sanford’s term to get a leg up on the 2010 race.

Sanford responded to Bauer’s announcement with an angry press conference in the state capital in which he refused to step down, instead choosing to attack the media and his political opponents.

Interestingly enough, as reported on FITS yesterday, Sanford will be in Horry County at the time the House Caucus meeting is being held.

Will he crash the Caucus party?

Oddly enough, sources tell FITS that Republican leadership would let Sanford speak at the Caucus meeting if he requested that opportunity.