One of the more curious things about the Mark Sanford case is how long it took for him to get caught. Here was a guy using taxpayer money to pay for high-priced airline tickets to see his mistress down in Argentina — a total of 18 times. (The law requires state officials to use the lowest-cost airline tickets; we assume that extends to trips to see the mistress.) The question is, how was the governor able to pull off so many trips without getting caught? Was there no one at the state level to say, “Hey, Gov, you’re supposed to be flying coach, you put in a bill here for business class …”
In my experience, I’ve found three things have to be in place for any fraud to occur: Need, Opportunity, and Rationalization. Sanford’s Need was clear: He wanted to see the chick in Argentina. The Rationalization bit, we’ll leave that to Sanford to answer. As for the Opportunity: Somewhere a flaw existed in the system. Somewhere, at the state level, a loophole allowed a sitting governor to flagrantly violate what now amount to 37 ethics violations.
And what was that loophole? Power and popularity. Mark Sanford was a rising star of the GOP. Clearly, that status helped override ethics. When all is said and done, the current ethics probe of Sanford will amount to further waste of taxpayers’ money if it doesn’t answer one central question: Who else aided and abetted a sitting governor to get away with such egregious abuses of power?