The State: Lt. Gov. Ard paying $48,000 fine
By JOHN O’CONNOR
Lt. Gov. Ken Ard has settled an investigation into his use of campaign money by agreeing to pay $48,400 in fines for 107 ethics violations and reimbursing his campaign $12,121.35.
Ard, a Florence Republican, racked up more than $20,000 in questioned expenses after his November election, paying for hotel rooms, football tickets to the Southeastern Conference championship game and a $799 dress for his wife to wear to the inauguration.
Ard will not face criminal charges after the State Ethics Commission declined to refer his case to the state attorney general for possible prosecution. Ard’s spending was first reported by the Columbia Free Times.
As lieutenant governor, Ard is paid $46,545-a-year for a part-time position. His duties include presiding over the state Senate – voting in the case of a tie – and running the state Office of Aging.
Ard admitted 38 violations, according to Ethics Commission director Herb Hayden, paying fines of $2,000 or $500 for each, depending on the commission’s view of the severity of the charge.
Ard disputed 69 lesser charges – including buying gas or small meals – paying a $100 fine for each but admitting no guilt.
Ard also reimbursed the state $12,500 for the cost of its investigation, writing a check Thursday.
“As I said from the beginning, I planned to take full responsibility for any mistakes that I have made, and I have done so today,” Ard said in a statement. “I have consistently strived to be a good steward of every dollar entrusted to me during my time in public service. I look forward to moving past this and continuing my work for the people of South Carolina in the office of lieutenant governor.”
Hayden said the 107 violations were the largest number in a single ethics case in state history.
Former Gov. Mark Sanford paid the largest fine, more than $74,000, to settle an ethics investigation into his use of state aircraft, pricey airfare and campaign money. Sanford also paid $66,223 to reimburse the cost of the state’s investigation.
The allegations against Sanford came to light after he confessed to having an extramarital affair with an Argentine woman.
The Ethics Commission did refer the case against Sanford to the state attorney general, who declined to prosecute, saying no laws had been broken.
S.C. Democrats criticized the Ard settlement, noting former North Carolina state Rep. Ty Harrell resigned his seat after allegations about his use of campaign money and is under criminal investigation.
“For the violations he’s committed, this is a slap on the wrist. In any other state, he’d be in legal jeopardy and would be writing his resignation letter,” said Lachlan McIntosh, director of S.C. Forward Progress, a Democratic group. “It is a good day for the good ol’ boys and another sad day for South Carolina.”