After several months of investigation, grand jury testimony and political speculation, the saga of embattled S.C. Lt. Gov. Ken Ard is finally drawing to a close, multiple sources familiar with the case tell FITS.
How’s it going to end?
Not well for Ard …
The “Republican in Name Only” from Pamplico, S.C. – who was busted last January using campaign funds for personal use – is staring down the business end of some serious consequences as a result of various campaign finance irregularities (and the lies he allegedly told to cover those irregularities up). In fact, depending on Ard’s response to the charges against him – we’re told he could be facing jail time.
“He is losing his office,” a source in S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley’s office tells FITS (Haley and Ard are represented by the same Columbia, S.C. attorneys, Kevin Hall and Butch Bowers). “Whether he does time is up to him.”
Complicating matters, our source says that there is intense disagreement among Ard’s lawyers over how to best handle his imminent indictment – which the lieutenant governor has reportedly been told to expect within the next two weeks.
Hall and Ard’s criminal attorney, Johnny Gasser, want him to fight the charges, our source says. Meanwhile Bowers is urging Ard to cut a deal.
What should we expect?
“Right now? A fight,” our source says.
S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson referred Ard’s case to the grand jury last July after an ethics report revealed that he spent tens of thousands of dollars in campaign cash on personal expenses – including football tickets, iPods, a Playstation, a flat-screen TV and women’s clothing – and then lied about those expenses on his state ethics forms.
Ard has already been assessed more than $60,000 worth of ethics fines.
According to the ethics report, 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 Tammy an inaugural gown as an excuse for some of the personal clothing expenses.
Ard has acknowledged using campaing funds for personal expense. In fact he did so during his initial interview with Corey Hutchins of The (Columbia, S.C.) Free Times – the reporter who broke open this scandal.
“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 possibly can,” Ard told Hutchins.
After The Free Times ran its story, Ard backed off of his statement. In fact, he later told the Associated Press that he had “no idea” where Hutchins got this quote. Days later, Hutchins released an audiotape of his interview with Ard that confirmed the accuracy of the statement.
Ard isn’t the only South Carolina “Republican” battling campaign finance issues. Newly elected S.C. Ways and Means Chairman Brian White (RINO-Anderson) was busted last year using campaign cash on personal expenses – although unlike Ard any investigation into his activities would have to originate in the S.C. House. Meanwhile S.C. Sen. Jake Knotts (RINO-Lexington) recently received a slap on the wrist from his buddies in the “Republican-controlled” South Carolina Senate for similar violations.
Legislation has been introduced that would end the practice of state lawmakers’ overseeing their own ethics investigations – which we strongly support.
Wilson has been bitterly criticized by Democrats for dragging his feet on the Ard investigation. Of course we’re told that he has also been slammed by Ard’s lawyers – who feel as though he is making an example of the lieutenant governor to advance his own political ambitions.
As we’ve noted previously, we’ve been displeased with the length of time that the grand jury has taken on this case – although to be fair this investigation has taken a few unexpected turns.
Having said that, we will withhold judgment on Wilson’s handling of the case until we see its outcome.