Lt. Gov. Ard faces nearly 100 ethics charges
Wed, 16 Mar 2011 23:21:44 GMT —
COLUMBIA (WACH, AP) -- South Carolina's lieutenant governor says he will cooperate with an investigation by the State Ethics Commission that has him facing dozens of civil charges.
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.
The statement came hours after the commission announced it found probable cause to charge the Republican with 92 counts of using campaign money for personal purposes and failing to disclose campaign spending.
The commission on Wednesday said it would release details of the charges in the next few days.
The ethics agency said that it found probable cause to bring charges on 69 counts of converting campaign money to personal use. It also found probable cause for 23 counts of failing to disclose spending.
The charges could bring up to $184,000 in civil fines.
USC Political Science Professor Bob Oldendick says 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.
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.
South Carolina Democratic Party chair Carol Fowler released a statement Wednesday that says, "Ken Ard has been in office less than 90 days and has already managed to create a dark ethical cloud over the Haley/Ard administration and with these charges has brought great discredit again to South Carolina."
Ard was also fined last month for three separate instances of problems with campaign finance records.Related Stories Lt. Gov. fined by ethics commission for finance records Ard hires lawyer for ethics questioning, paper releases interview Ard faces ethics probe from former office
The State Ethics Commission sent letters to Ard citing him for late, missing and incomplete filings. In total, Ard was fined $300.
The panel referred to a late filing in October during the state's general election last year, a finance report that was never submitted during his 2008 Florence County Council re-election campaign and an incomplete report from 2009 that he was contacted about several times but failed to update.
"This is a routine inquiry and these are nothing more than minor paperwork and filing matters," explained Ard's attorney Butch Bowers in February. "We look forward to cooperating with the Commission, and we TMre confident that at the conclusion of this process, the results will show that Lt. Gov. Ard has always been a good steward of his campaign account.
Bowers represented former Gov. Mark Sanford during his ethics trial.
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.
WACH Fox News will continue to follow this story as more details are released. Keep checking back for more.
What do you think about the charges? Leave a comment below to weigh in.
(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)