by William Moultrie
Columbia – With State Rep. Greg Delleney’s announcement on Tuesday that he will be introducing an impeachment resolution when the Legislature reconvenes next week, Sanford watchers are already looking ahead to an even tougher fight for the soon-to-be-former governor: filing for unemployment benefits.
Speculation around the State House for months has centered on Governor Sanford’s financial health.
“Jenny brought all the money into the relationship,” said Ari Finklestien, an accountant who frequently works with the Bamberg County Republican party. “I don’t think he’s gonna get much cash from her, though if they get divorced, I suppose he could sue for spousal support. That would sure be a tough pill to swallow.”
“[Sanford's financial trouble is] absolutely why he hasn’t stepped down,” said David Goldberg, accountant for the Orangeburg County Republicans. “All he’s got is this income. Usually, someone in his position would be in great shape to sit on a few corporate boards, get some speaking fees, stuff like that… but Mark’s got a whole new world of issues to deal with when he leaves office. He’ll draw a Congressional pension when he’s old enough, but even that’s going to be hard for him to accept since he spent almost his entire tenure in Congress trying to abolish it. He may not have a choice, though.”
In theory, Sanford will be eligible for unemployment benefits, though a former governor has never tried to file for such assistance. In South Carolina, benefits top out at $326 per week for up to 26 weeks. The tricky part is that if Sanford is impeached, his former employer will be contacted by the Employment Security Commission (ESC) where said employer will be able to contest his eligibility to receive the payments. An applicant can be deemed ineligible if they were terminated from their job for “cause.”
“This is definitely going to break new ground,” said Political Science professor Ben Tillman of Furman University. “Clearly his employer is the state of South Carolina — and I don’t mean the ‘state,’ like when you pay taxes to the ‘state,’ I mean the people themselves. The only way I see this happening is to have a statewide referendum on whether or not Sanford should receive his weekly unemployment checks. It’s not hard to guess where popular sentiment might be on that notion, but you just never know with these things, and who knows what special interest groups could get involved.”
Legal scholars are already debating whether left-over funds from Sanford’s previous campaigns could be used in a campaign to influence the voters to allow him to receive his weekly check for $326. Reports over the summer relayed that Sanford has well over $1 million in his war chest.
Residents of the state seem reluctant to go along with any sort of payments, no matter how small.
“No way in hell would I vote for him to get that money,” said Roberta Wynne, of Rock Hill. “I’ve been working hard for thirty years and you don’t see me with my hand out. Burger King up on Cherry Rd. is hiring — he can damn well get a job and pay his own keep instead of looking for some handout. I’ve seen pictures of him at those fancy barbecues… I’m sure he could handle some flame-broiling.”
While some people scoff at the notion that Sanford could get by on $326 a week, Tevya Abraham, a freelance travel accountant who has worked with the governor as well as several other South Carolina Republicans, suggests they may be overlooking the obvious.
“Sure, it would be difficult to maintain the lifestyle he’s accustomed to here in South Carolina,” Abraham said, “but if he were to temporarily relocate elsewhere, he might have an easier time. For instance, just to pick a country at random, in Argentina you could do quite well on $1200 or so a month, particularly if you were splitting rent with someone. Moving would be an expense and a hassle — oy vey — but I bet he’s got a nice stash of frequent flier miles somewhere.”
If granted unemployment benefits, Sanford must agree to actively seek employment and maintain a log of his job-seeking activities which, while not public, would be subject to Freedom of Information requests.
Jenny Sanford could not be reached for comment.