It’s incredibly rare for a governor in the United States to be impeached. In fact, it’s happened only eight times. Before Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich was impeached in 2009 for abusing his power, the last man removed from a state’s highest post was in 1988 — and, before that, 1929.
Lawmakers are looking into disciplinary action against Gov. Paul LePage for rescinding payment to Good Will-Hinckley school, in Somerset County, after Democratic House Speaker Mark Eves was named its president. They have raised the possibility of impeachment.
What have previous governors done to be impeached and removed from office? Here’s the list:
Rod Blagojevich, 2009: Federal agents arrested Blagojevich for attempting to sell President-elect Barack Obama’s newly vacant Senate seat for cash. Even before his arrest, he had the distinction of “least popular governor in the nation,” with an approval rating of 13 percent.
Blagojevich also threatened to withhold state money for Wrigley Field renovations unless Tribune Co. fired the Chicago Tribune editorial board, which had criticized the governor. Tribune Co. owns both the ballpark and the newspaper.
Blagojevich was impeached in January 2009 after a Senate trial. A federal grand jury indicted him on criminal corruption charges in April 2009, and he was found guilty of 17 out of 20 of those charges on June 27, 2011.
Evan Mecham, 1988: The Arizona governor was impeached for misusing state funds. After winning a three-way race in November 1986, the attorney general began investigating claims Mecham had lent his auto dealership $80,000 from his inauguration fund and obstructed justice by trying to stop an inquiry into a death threat against a former lobbyist.
In January 1988, a state grand jury indicted him on six felony charges of fraud, perjury and filing false documents for allegedly concealing a $350,000 campaign loan. Two months after he was removed from office, he was found not guilty of the charges.
Henry S. Johnston, 1929: Johnston’s impeachment trial created more than 5,000 pages of testimony surrounding charges of illegally hiring state employees and using Oklahoma National Guard members to prevent the Legislature from meeting, according to the Oklahoma Historical Society. The Senate found Johnston guilty of one out of 10 charges: general incompetence.
John Walton, 1923: Walton served less than one year as governor of Oklahoma. In 1923, he placed Okmulgee County under martial law to investigate the Ku Klux Klan, and the military court found many cases of terrorism. Meanwhile, legislators — most of whom were Klan members — began a movement to oust Walton. In reaction, Walton declared the entire state under martial law to prevent the Legislature from meeting. Even so, the public voted three to one to allow the House and Senate to meet — and impeach him.
James Ferguson, 1917: This Texas governor’s impeachment revolved around a university. The board running the University of Texas kept on several faculty members Ferguson wanted removed, and, when they weren’t, he vetoed university funding. In response, people called for an investigation into Ferguson’s prior shady financial dealings. He was impeached on several charges, including misapplication of public funds and embezzlement.
William Sulzer, 1913: He was the first and only governor of New York to be impeached — largely for getting elected with the support of Tammany Hall (the political machine that dominated New York politics then) and then turning against it by having several Tammany politicians investigated for graft. But he was impeached for real reasons: Tammany boss Charles Murphy had the Legislature remove him from office for filing false campaign contribution records. Sulzer had not reported about $60,000, and he’d used $40,000 of that to play the stock market.
David Butler, 1871: He was elected governor of Nebraska a lot: in 1866, 1868 and 1870. In 1871, however, he was accused of misappropriating school funds to buy land for his personal use, and the Legislature brought impeachment charges and removed him from office. In 1877, however, the Legislature reviewed its record and decided to expunge the impeachment record from his legislative transcript. Butler then returned to political life and served in the state Senate for one term.
William Holden, 1871: This head of North Carolina was the first governor in the country to be impeached — for “suspending the right of habeas corpus.” He suspended it to arrest members of the Ku Klux Klan who were preventing newly freed slaves from exercising their right to vote. But when Conservatives gained power in 1870, they brought charges that he had usurped the constitution of the state and essentially arrested people with no legal authority. The trial began Jan. 30, 1871, and the North Carolina Senate found him guilty March 22.