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S.C. Lt. Gov. Ken Ard has settled with the South Carolina State Ethics Commission after the agency accused him of committing more than 100 campaign finance violations.

Ard’s punishment?

Like other “Republicans in Name Only” before him (and no doubt other RINOs to come), Ard got a slap on the wrist. Specifically, he paid a $48,400 fine and reimbursed his campaign account in the amount of $13,700 – all to make up for a flood of flagrantly illegal campaign expenditures racked up in the months after he won election last November.

Case closed? Not hardly.

It turns out Ard’s indiscretions were much worse than originally thought. In fact, the ethics commission report outlining the violations committed by Ard is, quite simply, damning. In addition to detailing his numerous improper expenses, the report also chronicles how Ard (on multiple occasions) failed to shoot straight with ethics investigators.

Actually, “failed to shoot straight” is putting it nicely … this thick-accented, thicker-skulled bumpkin flat out lied in an effort to evade the consequences of his actions.

Obviously the news that Ard was substantially less that truthful with the Ethics Commission is nothing new – after all, earlier this year he was busted lying to the press about a quote he gave reporter Corey Hutchins of The (Columbia, S.C.) Free Times, the outlet that broke the story of his campaign indiscretions.

“I’ve got a vast amount of my personal wealth tied up in this campaign and I’m just trying to recoup as much of that as I can,” Ard told Hutchins.

After The Free Times story was published, however, Ard told the Associated Press that he had “no idea” where Hutchins got that quote. Days later, Hutchins released an audiotape of his interview with Ard that confirmed the accuracy of the statement.

Of course lying to a reporter is one thing … in fact, we’re pretty sure that’s a prerequisite for being a “Republican” in this state. But what about lying to ethics investigators?

That strikes us as downright criminal.

It’s hard not to miss the obvious pattern of deception here. Hell, even Ard’s infamous cover story about buying his wife a gown for the inauguration was a lie.

Take a look at a few of the more galling expense nuggets from the Ethics Commission report (and the lies Ard told to cover many of them up):

*$168 for two SEC Championship tickets
Ard told investigators he had reimbursed his campaign account for this purchase, however, his ethics reports did not reflect this claim.

*$722.33 and $577.96 on lodging in Columbia and Charleston (respectively)
Ard stated that these charges were campaign related, however, he failed to provide details of how or why they were related. The disclosure reports contain no contributions from anyone in Charleston or Columbia at this time.

*$2,543.10 for a family trip to Washington DC.
Ard claimed he traveled to Washington, D.C. to meet with Senator Lindsey Graham to discuss economic development issues. However Graham’s office says that Ard never even requested a meeting – and that Graham was out of town at the time. Ard brought his entire family along for the trip, though – and put all of the expenses on his campaign credit card.

*$800 on women’s clothes
Ard previously claimed that he spent $800 on an inaugural dress for his wife, Tammy. However, receipts show Ard used his campaign credit card to purchase a ladies jacket for $484.00 and a ladies skirt for $256.00. Neither of those clothing items were worn by Tammy Ard at the inauguration.

*$3,056.30 at Best Buy
Ard claimed he purchased “computers and other office equipment,” at Best Buy, but investigators found that he really purchased a Playstation 3 ($324.99) a 46-inch Sony Flat Screen Television ($974.99), an iPod Touch 8G ($229.99), an iPod charger ($15.99), an iPod case ($8.99), a set of Sony Earbud Headphones ($14.99), among other expenses.

*$560.67 at Half Moon Outfitters
Ard failed to disclose this purchase but investigators found that he purchased shoes, jackets, pants, shirts and boots at this high-end retailer.

*$313.51 at Talbots
Ard also failed to disclose any of these purchases on his disclosure report, but investigators found that he purchased one pair of ladies black/multi tweed pants ($119.00), one ladies red turtleneck ($50.50), one ladies pink turtleneck ($44.99) and one pair of ladies black corduroy pants ($69.50).

In addition to these expenses, Ard used campaign funds to pay for his wife Tammy Ard’s personal cell phone – although in fairness S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley made quite a few personal calls on a cell phone that she billed back to her campaign account (oh, and let’s not forget Haley’s ongoing failure to disclose campaign donor information that’s required by state law).

Anyway, the bottom line is that Ard’s indiscretions were far worse than anyone ever imagined.

“Right before the July 4th holiday weekend, the truth about Lt. Governor Ken Ard has finally come out,” Democratic operative Tyler Jones said Friday. “It turns out he has consistently lied to investigators at the S.C. Ethics Commission, the media, and the people of South Carolina. At what point will this man be held accountable for his actions and sent back to Effingham? It’s one thing to knowingly break ethics laws, but when you’re caught lying about breaking ethics laws, it’s time to pack your bags and go home. And that’s precisely what Ken Ard should do.”

We agree.

It would have been one thing if Ard – upon being busted – had told the truth and taken responsibility for his actions. If that were the case, we can see how a $48,400 fine and $13,700 reimbursement might fit the crime.

Given Ard’s duplicity, however … we find it absolutely unconscionable that he’s getting a hall pass.

When confronted with questionable expenses, Ard lied to the press – and misled investigators. For that, he should be out on his ass.

KEN ARD ETHICS INVESTIGATION REPORT (.pdf)

Pic: Travis Bell, Sideline Carolina

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