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S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson is “supremely confident” that a statewide grand jury will return a criminal indictment against S.C. Lt. Gov. Ken Ard (RINO-Pamplico), sources close to the first-term Republican officeholder tell FITS.

Meanwhile, a pair of state lawmakers – one Democrat, the other Republican – tell FITS that Wilson is playing the case by the book, earning him the respect of numerous leaders in both parties.

Some Democrats have expressed concern that Wilson and Ard may have cut a deal involving the latter’s grand jury proceedings – perhaps in an effort to avoid dragging a prominent Republican fundraiser into the investigation.

Not so, say our sources …

In fact, we’re told that Wilson is not only confident in the case he’s making … but is furious with Ard’s attorneys over their refusal to shoot straight with his office at various points during the investigation.

Ard’s problems stem from a S.C. State Ethics Commission investigation into numerous campaign finance violations.

An ethics report released last month showed that Ard’s illegal use of campaign funds for personal purposes was much more flagrant than originally suspected. Also, the report revealed that Ard repeatedly provided false information to investigators – fabricating an official “economic development” pretense for a family vacation to Washington, D.C. and concocting a story about buying his wife an inaugural gown.

In an effort to make their case against Ard, Wilson’s investigators have requested a tape recording from The (Columbia, S.C.) Free Times – the outlet which broke the news of Ard’s campaign issues back in January. In addition to containing Ard’s admission that he was trying to recoup a vast amount of his “personal wealth,” this recording includes numerous instances in which Ard denies using campaign cash on personal expenses.

Obviously Ard isn’t the only South Carolina “Republican” facing campaign finance problems. Newly-elected S.C. Ways and Means Chairman Brian White has a similar issue – while S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley has habitually refused to disclose the occupation of the vast majority of her donors as required by state law.

If Ard is indicted, he would be automatically suspended from office pending the outcome of the charges against him. In the event he were to resign from office or be convicted, S.C. Senate President Glenn McConnell would be in line to replace him – although it’s unclear at this point whether McConnell would temporarily relinquish his Senate leadership role in an effort to avoid assuming the politically impotent lieutenant governor’s office.

One thing is clear, though … if Wilson wins an indictment against Ard he’s likely to become a hero to Democrats and fiscally conservative Republicans who opposed Ard last year, not to mention unaffiliated voters who are simply weary of political scandals.

If he fails to get an indictment, then he’s got serious problems with all three of those groups …

“He’s coming out of (the Ard scandal) as one of two things – a future governor or a dead politician walking,” one Democratic operative told FITS.

Hard to argue with that assessment …

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