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      Ard investigation leads AG to form new task force

      Attorney General Alan Wilson

      COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) -- South Carolina's attorney general has created a task force to review the campaign spending case against Lt. Gov. Ken Ard.

      Ard two weeks ago agreed to pay the state Ethics Commission a $48,000 fine and $12,500 to cover investigation costs tied to 107 counts of using campaign cash for personal purposes that included a family vacation, iPads, a gaming system and clothing.

      Ard has declined interview requests. His spokeswoman did not respond to an interview request on Thursday.

      The Ethics Commission didn't refer the case to Attorney General Alan Wilson for a review of whether it merited criminal prosecution. But Wilson began one on his own last week.

      On Thursday, Wilson spokesman Mark Plowden said that review led to creating the task force that will handle the Ard case and future investigations of public corruption. There is nothing to report from the investigation so far, he said.

      The task force includes a veteran investigator who reviewed former Gov. Mark Sanford's case in 2009.

      That review began as the Ethics Commission looked into Sanford's use of state planes, campaign cash and first-class travel in the aftermath of his revelation that he had an affair with a woman in Argentina.

      There were no criminal charges in the case. However, Sanford paid $74,000 in fines and $36,498 to cover the investigation and other costs. He also agreed to reimburse his campaign and state agencies for $29,736 in travel and personal expenses.

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      While Sanford paid his costs with campaign cash, Ard paid his tab with personal funds.

      Ard filed a campaign finance report Tuesday that shows he raised $23,000 during the quarter that ended June 30. He has $28,712 in the account and outstanding loan balance of $283,679.

      Nearly all of the cash Ard raised came from nursing homes, elderly care providers and the South Carolina Health Care Association. Ard's part-time job pays $46,545 and includes oversight of the state Office on Aging.

      (Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)