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As reported exclusively by FITS, S.C. Lt. Gov. Ken Ard resigned his office on Friday in the wake of a criminal investigation into multiple campaign finance violations – as well as the lies he told trying to conceal those violations from investigators.

The “Republican in Name Only” from Pamplico, S.C. received a five-year probationary sentence after pleading guilty to four counts of unlawful reimbursement of campaign funds, two counts of failure to report on campaign documents and one count of using campaign funds for personal use.

That final count, however, covered a broad array of violations included in an ethics report published last summer (which previously resulted in Ard paying $60,000 worth of ethics fines).

At the center of the criminal charges – as we reported exclusively six months ago – was a “cash for contributions” scam in which Ard doled out money to recipients in exchange for checks to his campaign organization.

“The State Grand Jury charges Mr. Ard with a scheme, developed as part of his candidacy for Lt. Governor, to create the false appearance of a groundswell of political support through fictitious or bogus campaign contributions,” S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson said. “These donations to Mr. Ard’s campaign were not a genuine demonstration of financial support.  Instead, they represented cash in the amount of $75,000 which was funneled from Mr. Ard to others and ultimately back to his campaign as purported contributions from citizens in the community.”

“During my campaign, it was my responsibility to make sure things were done correctly,” Ard said in a statement accompanying his letter of resignation. “I did not do that. There are no excuses nor is there need to share blame. It is my fault that the events of the past year have taken place.”

Ard’s resignation comes 422 days after he took the oath of office as South Carolina’s 88th lieutenant governor.

(To read our exclusive story breaking the news of Ard’s resignation, click here. To read our report on the palace intrigues that preceded his resignation, click here. And to read our exclusive report on how the state’s mainstream media tried to take a pass on this scandal, click here).

In a surprise move, powerful S.C. Senate President Glenn McConnell decided to remain at his post prior to Ard’s resignation – resulting in him becoming the state’s 89th lieutenant governor when Ard stepped down. Many had suspected that McConnell might find a way to resign prior to Ard, thus enabling him to preserve his powerful legislative perch.

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***KEN ARD UPDATES***

(Got an item you’d like us to include in this feed? Email our founding editor at w@fitsnews.com).

5:31 p.m. – S.C. Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell will seek his old seat in a special election. If he wins, he could be back in the Senate by July.

4:15 p.m. – And there it is … this thing just “went Springer” (as in Jerry, not the spaniel).

3:01 p.m. – Sources tell FITS that there is a connection between the indictment of former S.C. Lt. Gov. Ken Ard and this story that we wrote way back in June of 201o.

2:58 p.m. – Just spoke with a source close to new S.C. Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell. Rumors that he is about to resign his post so that he can run for his recently-vacated Senate seat are inaccurate.

The quote:

He’s taking the oath next week.

2:20 p.m. – Sources tell FITS that the S.C. Democratic Party had a lawsuit ready to file in the event S.C. Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell (still not used to saying that) had tried to circumvent the State Constitution and avoid succeeding Ken Ard.

2:13 p.m. – Want a key date in the saga of now former S.C. Lt. Gov. Ken Ard? February 2, 2011. That’s the day Matthew Watson of the S.C. Democratic Party filed a formal complaint against Ard.

1:58 p.m. – Just for chips and giggles, late Thursday a S.C. political tweeter named @KennyMacDavis wrote that this website was “wrong again” about Ard’s impending resignation, that our founding editor was a “dumbass,” and that he “(couldn’t) believe God allowed something like (our founding editor Will Folks) to reproduce.”

“I’ll (b)e praying that your kids grow up and not realize how big of a douche their dad is. Pathetic,” the account’s author continued.

Awwww … this one goes out to you, bud.

1:54 p.m. – Here’s the report from the statewide grand jury that indicted S.C. Lt. Gov. Ken Ard.

1:49 p.m. – Here are the remarks of S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson related to the indictment of S.C. Lt. Gov. Ken Ard.

1:48 p.m. – Here’s the indictment against S.C. Lt. Gov. Ken Ard.

1:44 p.m. – Here’s the press release from S.C. Attorney General’s office announcing Ard’s indictment on seven charges.

The State Grand Jury charges Mr. Ard with a scheme, developed as part of his candidacy for Lt. Governor, to create the false appearance of a groundswell of political support through fictitious or bogus campaign contributions.

In other words, exactly what we reported last September.

1:41 p.m. – Ken Ard  will appear in court at 2:00 p.m. to answer the charges filed against him

1:17 p.m. – The question on everybody’s mind in South Carolina politics right now …

And with good reason (see here and here).

1:12 p.m. – S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson: “Campaign funds cannot be used for a candidate’s personal slush fund.”

1:1o p.m. – S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson: Grand juries must move at the pace which “justice, thoroughness and the law” demand – a very stern rebuke of the criticism he has received for allegedly dragging his feet on the investigation.

1:05 p.m. – S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson: Ard was charged with seven misdemeanor counts stemming from grand jury investigation.

12:58 p.m. – Prominent SCGOP operative just sent me this quote:

“Let’s play a game. Ken Ard = Spiro Agnew. Nikki Haley = ???”

12:55 p.m. – Potentially prescient tweet from @WiselyCracking:

McConnell move makes sense if someone else’s days are numbered.

Indeed it does. In fact we addressed that speculation months ago in this post.

12:45 p.m. – Not that anybody cares, but the previously agreed upon “code phrase” from my deep throat source regarding the Ken Ard indictment was “the package is in the open.”

12:43 p.m. – Funny tweet from our founding editor:

If we were using @NikkiHaley‘s beauty pageant rankings, Glenn McConnell would be governor right now. http://bit.ly/wRMLBD

12:37 p.m. – Questions answered: Ken Ard  resigned. Glenn McConnell took his place. Questions remaining: Who will take McConnell’s place (as Senate President, Judiciary Chairman and State Senator from Charleston)? What did Ard’s plea agreement stipulate? Are there any other indictments coming?

12:33 p.m. – From the talented and lovely Cashion Drolet’s Facebook page:

It’s the season of change in SC politics.

Damn straight … crazy change.

12:32 p.m. – From the talented and lovely Somer Grasser’s Facebook page:

A whole new SC Senate next year, boys and girls!

12:30 p.m. – Funny tweet from @MicahCaskey re: Glenn McConnell’s decision to take the Lieutenant Governor’s job:

Does this mean he gets a promotion in the Confederate Re-enactment Army too?

12:23 p.m. – Sources: S.C. Senate Finance Chairman Hugh Leatherman is most likely to succeed Glenn McConnell as the new President Pro Tempore of the Senate, although its “not a done deal” yet. S.C. Senate Majority Leader Harvey Peeler is another possible successor to McConnell.

12:18 p.m. – For those of you who don’t follow our founding editor’s always-lively Twitter page, that’s where it’s at today …

And yes, he’s got “two turntables and a microphone.”

12:11 p.m. – We’ve just confirmed that while Columbia burns, S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley is speaking to a Club for Growth event in Florida (that’s the Ritz-Carlton Palm Beach event we referenced earlier).  Here are the details.

Two observations …

First, based on her total lack of fiscal credentials, what in the hell is the Club for Growth thinking? Second … in light of what’s going on at the State Capitol, shouldn’t Haley be high-tailing it back to Columbia right now?

12:02 p.m. – Last question answered. In a surprise move, S.C. Sen. Glenn McConnell has assumed the Lt. Governor’s office …

11:48 a.m. – Who is in charge of the State of South Carolina right now? Gov. Nikki Haley is at a political event in Florida, and there is no Lieutenant Governor. Just askin’ …

11:44 a.m. – A lobbyist at the S.C. State House just compared the bizarre succession drama taking place among State Senators to the Papal Conclave at the Vatican. “Let me know when the white smoke comes out of the Gressette (building),” she writes.

11:32 a.m. – The South Carolina Republican Party has just issued a statement on Ard’s resignation:

“Lieutenant Governor Ard has taken responsibility for his actions. His resignation will help our state move past this sad and unfortunate incident. Our thoughts and prayers are with Ken and his family during this time,” said Chairman Connelly.

11:25 a.m. – S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley has just issued a statement on Ard’s resignation:

Michael and I appreciate the service Ken and Tammy Ard have given to the state of South Carolina. They are good people who have given much of their time and efforts to Florence and the state as a whole. I valued Ken’s partnership and wish Ken and his family all of the best going forward. I look forward to continuing the progress South Carolina has made in the last 15 months with our next Lieutenant Governor.

Haley is not in South Carolina at the moment. She is currently attending an “economic conference” at the Ritz-Carlton in Palm Beach, Florida.

11:22 a.m. – Corey Hutchins, the alternative weekly reporter who published the first story about Ard’s campaign finance problems, has filed this report today …

11:19 a.m. – According to CBS News (one of several national news outlets picking up the story), “by state law, the Senate President Pro Tem will become lieutenant governor.” That appears to be true, which is why Mr. Rivera’s question below is so relevant …

11:17 a.m. – Via Facebook Ethan Rivera asks a splendid interrogative: “So here is the new question….who is the President of the SC Senate right now?”

11:11 a.m. – S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson and S.C. State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) chief Mark Keel will hold a press conference at 1:00 p.m. EDT Friday to discuss the Ard case.

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