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Because South Carolina’s “fiscally-conservative” governor has no shame, the state that he purports to lead remains hopelessly mired in a sad, pathetic soap opera that’s about to enter its sixth month.

While the governor prepares to “celebrate” an awkward holiday season alone in a big, empty mansion, a committee of seven lawmakers is investigating thirty-seven alleged violations of state ethics law that he is said to have committed over the past few years.

Sanford, who promised to “go the extra mile” by allowing the investigation into his administration to be conducted publicly, has instead kept the process as secretive as possible – releasing an ethics report approved by his political appointees only after it failed to uncover any indiscretions that the public didn’t already know about.

It shouldn’t be this way.

Sanford should have resigned his office months ago, but with an ego the size of Argentina (and a major economic development deal pending), that obviously wasn’t going to happen.

Nor is it going to happen now.

In fact, as the “Reformer Gone Bad” spends your tax money on his legal defense and ongoing image reclamation effort, those dare to probe the web of lies this hypocrite has woven find themselves coming under fire.

“Sanford may be many things, but he’s no Rod Blagojevich,” a recent editorial in the Hilton Head Island Packet concluded, urging state lawmakers to give up the “distraction” of impeachment hearings.

The Packet editorial was based almost exclusively on talking points provided by Sanford’s taxpayer-funded attorney, in case you were wondering.

Amid this backdrop of hand-wringing, we are fortunate to have at least one mainstream media outlet (or at least one mainstream editorial board) that has its eye on the ball.

The (Myrtle Beach) Sun News, in a rare burst of journalistic integrity, brings us back to the crux of this whole unfortunate matter.

“If the governor misused state resources in the pursuit of an affair, he should clearly be removed from office,” the editorial concludes. “As yet, that certainly has not been established – but for some reason, no one is investigating the most obviously suspect incident: a 2008 junket to Argentina that Sanford requested of the state Commerce Department.”

From the editorial:

While there, Sanford requested meetings with Argentinian leaders, and once in Buenos Aires, he asked that his schedule be kept light. Sanford would later admit to spending that weekend in the city with his girlfriend, saying the 2008 trip was the first instance in which their long friendship turned romantic. The matter was largely dropped after a cursory SLED investigation concluded that while on state business trips, officials are not expected to devote all their time to state business.

The reason Sanford requested a trip to the capital was never addressed, however, and that should be the question lawmakers answer as they consider removing Sanford from office. It’s one issue the media may be unable to answer, as the evidence likely lies in the governor’s personal e-mails and phone records, which the governor’s attorneys argue are out of reach of the S.C. Freedom of Information Act. Officials in Columbia should be able to demand those documents, but it appears no one is even trying.

Well they should start … trying, that is.

Indeed, we make it a point to include a prominent reference to this 2008 boondoggle in literally every article we write about Sanford and his star-crossed Latin lover, Maria Belen Chapur, referring to it as “a trip that now appears to have been set up solely for the purpose of facilitating a liaison between Sanford and Chapur.”

Remember, it was on this 2008 trip that Sanford claims to have crossed “the ultimate line” with Chapur – and in the ultimate acknowledgment of his guilt for doing so, he cut the taxpayers a check for just over $3,000 shortly after copping to the affair in June of 2009.

Which leads us to another question … if a governor indeed set up an “economic development” trip for the exclusive purpose of meeting with his lover,  how on earth is that not an impeachable offense?

Or are we to assume that politicians should be permitted to raid the public Treasury with impunity to satisfy their carnal desires – repaying the debt only after their carefully-concocted cover stories come crashing down?

Consider this contrast … after former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer was caught spending his own money on a prostitute (something we don’t necessarily think should be illegal), he immediately owned up to his mistake and stepped down.

“Over the course of my public life, I have insisted … that people, regardless of their position or power, take responsibility for their conduct,” he said.  “I can and will ask no less of myself.”

Prior to his embarrassing prostitution bust, Spitzer was a crusading Attorney General who made a name for himself fighting corruption.  Of course he realized that in light of the glaring hypocrisy to which he had exposed himself, he could no longer function as a leader.

Similarly, prior to his embarrassing tryst(s) in Buenos Aires, Mark Sanford was a crusading fiscal conservative who made a name for himself fighting waste in government.

And yet in spite of exposing himself to the same debilitating hypocrisy (also due to lawless behavior), Sanford refuses to be a man and own his actions.