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Post & Courier: Lt. Gov Ken Ard faces new scrutiny

Charleston Post and Courierby Yvonne Wenger

COLUMBIA -- South Carolina's attorney general is looking into Lt. Gov. Ken Ard's campaign spending to determine whether he should be prosecuted.

Alan Wilson's office told The Post and Courier on Tuesday that Ard is under review for his improper use of campaign cash, racking up the second-largest ethics fine in state history.

If Wilson decides enough evidence exists to warrant an investigation, the case would be turned over to the State Law Enforcement Division.

Mark Plowden, spokesman for the attorney general, said the office contacted the State Ethics Commission on Tuesday to request information on the ethics finding released last week. At this point, the matter is considered a review, not an investigation.

The lieutenant governor could not immediately be reached for comment.

"We are currently reviewing that information as we await further information," Plowden said. "The intent of this review is to determine what if any prosecutorial action is warranted."

Ard was charged with 107 ethics violations and a $48,400 fine, as well as $12,500 in costs for the investigation and told to reimburse $12,000 to his campaign. Former Gov. Mark Sanford holds the record for the state's largest ethics fine -- $74,000 -- for an investigation that was triggered by his affair with a woman from Argentina.

After his election in November, Ard used his campaign funds through December to buy personal items, including a family vacation to Washington, a game system, flat-screen TV, iPads, clothing for himself and his wife, fuel and food. The Ethics Commission found Ard also did not give ethics investigators accurate information.

For instance, the ethics report said, Ard claimed he was traveling to Washington to meet with U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham over economic development and other state matters. Graham's office told investigators that Ard and his family were interested in a tour and that Graham was not in Washington at that time.

Ard also used campaign money to watch the University of South Carolina play a Southeastern Conference championship football game in Atlanta. Ard claimed that the university invited him, but that wasn't the case, according to the Ethics Commission.

Lachlan McIntosh, a Democratic operative and director of S.C. Forward Progress, said Ard should resign. He commended Wilson's office for looking into the situation.

"It's about time," McIntosh said. "Clearly, this guy has done wrong. In any other state, he'd go to jail for what he's done and in other states, people have."

Ard said last week after the Ethics Commission finding that he takes full responsibility for any mistakes he made.

"I have consistently strived to be a good steward of every dollar entrusted to me during my time in public service," he said at that time. "I look forward to moving past this and continuing my work for the people of South Carolina in the office of lieutenant governor."

Read the article at The Post and Courier