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AP: Inaccuracy costs Ard, top ethics official says

Associated PressAssociated Press

COLUMBIA --- Because of inaccurate statements in an ethics investigation, Lt. Gov. Ken Ard had to pay extra stiff fines for using campaign money on a family vacation, clothes and iPads, the state's top ethic official said Friday.

On Thursday, the Republican paid a $48,400 fine for 107 violations and agreed to reimburse the state Ethics Commission $12,500 for its investigation. He'll also repay his campaign about $12,000. Ard paid $100 for each of 69 violations, $500 for each of 23 violations and $2,000 -- the maximum allowable fine -- for 15 violations.

Commission Executive Director Herb Hayden said Friday that the $2,000 fines included offenses where inaccurate explanations of spending were provided to investigators.

An Ard spokeswoman said Friday that he would not be available to discuss the state's second largest ethics fine in history until next week.

Ard lawyer Butch Bowers said there was no intention to mislead, noting that Ard never spoke to investigators.

In a 20-page order, the commission showed statements Bowers provided to investigators on Ard's behalf didn't match the facts. - Bowers said Ard traveled to Washington in December to meet with U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham "to discuss issues affecting South Carolina, including economic development and role of the lieutenant governor's office in addressing those issues."

U.S. Senate lawyer Grant Vinik said there was no meeting. He said a call was made to Graham's office "to arrange a tour of the Capitol and the Library of Congress for the respondent (Ard) and his family." When Ard's family arrived at Graham's office, Vinik said, Graham's chief of staff asked whether they had any questions and they left after picking up tour information. Ard billed his campaign account for $2,543, including airfare for his wife and three children, meals and limousine service.

Bowers said Ard "intended to meet the senator. ... As it turned out, the senator was not in Washington."

- Ard's campaign finance report showed $3,056 spent on "computer equip" at a Florence Best Buy. Bowers told investigators that Ard's spending was for "computers and other office equipment for use in his home for campaign and office-related expenses."

Investigators obtained a detailed bill from Best Buy that showed Ard's campaign account was used to buy a $335 PlayStation, a $975 flat-screen television, two $600 iPads and other personal electronic gear.

- Ard billed his campaign account for a trip to the SEC championship football game in Atlanta last year, including $168 for two tickets and $279 for a hotel room. When asked about the trip, Ard said he was invited by University of South Carolina officials.

"The investigation reveals that no official invitation was extended," the order said, and if one had been, it would have violated state lobbying laws. Ard's friend, USC trustee Eddie Floyd, did invite him, but when "it was learned that the university would be placing itself in jeopardy of a lobbying violation, the offer was rescinded," and Ard was given a chance to buy tickets.

Bowers told investigators that Ard reimbursed his campaign for the tickets, but that reimbursement was not reported on Ard's campaign finance reports, the Ethics Commission order said.

Hayden said the commission could have used stronger language, but instead said statements provided on Ard's behalf said one thing and the investigation proved something else.

"The guy just lies and lies and lies," said Lachlan McIntosh, who runs SC Forward Progress, a group that advocates for Democrats. "In most places when people lie to investigators, they go to jail."

Read the article at the Augusta Chronicle