Ard now faces 106 ethics charges for campaign spending
Fri, 18 Mar 2011 14:27:42 GMT —
COLUMBIA (WACH, AP) -- The South Carolina Ethics Commission released additional details of charges filed against Lt. Gov. Ken Ard Friday morning.
The agency says Ard now faces 106 ethics charges instead of the 92 that was announced earlier this week.
Commission executive director Herb Hayden says Ard faces 93 counts of converting campaign funds to personal use and 23 counts of failure to disclose expenditures. No date has been set for a hearing on the charges.
The agency says Ard used campaign donations for thousands of dollars for meals at restaurants, a family vacation to Washington, computer equipment and a gown for his wife.
The documents also say Ard used donations for hundreds of dollars in of gasoline and for a trip to see the University of South Carolina play football in Atlanta.
The detailed allegations are contained in documents the State Ethics Commission released Friday.
Ard said Wednesday night that he will answer any questions the commission has. He says he will take responsibility for any mistakes he may have made and look to correct them.
USC Political Science Professor Bob Oldendick said Thursday that Ard's cooperation is the best course of action.
"If some of the violations stick and he makes restitution, then I think it's something that will be put behind him, but if it's something that drags out and he winds up arguing and not willing to pay the fine then it becomes a criminal matter and gets turned over to the attorney general, then it becomes a bigger problem," Oldendick explains.Related Stories Lt. Gov. Ard faces nearly 100 ethics charges House raises lobbyist fee, muzzles ethics panel Lt. Gov. fined by ethics commission for finance records
And both parties are weighing in. Democrats say the allegations may merit a criminal investigation.
State Democratic Party executive director Jay Parmley says there are so many charges for so many personal items that Ard appears to have blatantly broken the law. Parmley says that means the allegations border on criminal offenses instead of civil offenses.State Republican Party executive director Joel Sawyer says he expects Democrats to seize on Ard's problems. Sawyer notes Ard is cooperating and will address the problems.
Ard had already been questioned on campaign dollars spent on items such as dining, electronics and women's apparel. Since winning the office in November, the panel says he has spent almost $25,000 as of February 10. That spending includes $3,000 spent at a Florence Best Buy store and $800 at a women's apparel store.
There are strict restrictions on what can be done with money raised during a political campaign. After the race is over, elected officials are allowed to spend campaign funds on further runs for office, among other regulations. They are not allowed to make personal purchases with the money.
Each charge carries a potential fine of $2,000. Ard has already been fined last month for three separate instances of problems with campaign finance records.
WACH Fox News will continue to follow this story as more details are released. Keep checking back for more.
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(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)