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#SC2018: Attorney General Challengers Seek Support In Interesting Places

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There hasn’t been much light/ heat associated with the “Republican” attorney general’s race in South Carolina … which is surprising to us.

There’s been plenty of drama and acrimony, don’t get us wrong … just not much attention has been paid to any of it.

A competitive, contentious five-way governor’s race has truly deprived this three-person down ballot election of any oxygen … which has obviously been music to the ears of incumbent attorney general Alan Wilson.

Even better for Wilson?  His two challengers leave much to be desired.  Okay … let’s rephrase that: They are God awful.  Which is probably why both are struggling to gain any traction in this contest.

According to several internal polls we have been shown over the last , neither left-leaning Upstate attorney William Herlong nor ethically challenged Midlands, S.C. lawmaker Todd Atwater have been able to come within striking distance of Wilson – who heads into the final weekend of the race with a commanding lead.

Herlong and Atwater are both working hard, though, and both recently traveled to the Palmetto Pee Dee to seek the support of a former elected official who has become one of the more influential media voices in this rural region of the state.

We’re referring of course to Ken Ard, who briefly served as lieutenant governor of South Carolina before resigning his office and pleading guilty to campaign finance charges in early 2012.

After bashing him repeatedly on this news site for years, our founding editor Will Folks has struck up an unlikely friendship with Ard – who hosts the morning show on Live 95 in Florence, S.C.  In fact, the two of them were spotted hanging out together during this week’s “Republican” gubernatorial debate in Columbia, S.C.

Ard’s megaphone in the Pee Dee is a large one, but we were frankly a bit surprised to see him turn it over to Atwater (here) and Herlong (here).

Or maybe we weren’t surprised?

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Wilson led the prosecution of Ard back in 2012, and successfully negotiated his plea agreement.

Is Ard now paying him back?  Wilson backers certainly think so … 

“I’d say it’s fairly ironic to see Atwater and Herlong seeking support and air time from Ken Ard, who Alan Wilson prosecuted and who was convicted of violating ethics laws,” one Wilson supporter told us.  “Beyond all the innuendo and sensationalizing from them, this guy was actually indicted by the office they’re running for.  I think a fair question would be if Atwater or Herlong would have prosecuted Ard?  If so, why were they seeking support and air time from this guy while talking about ethics?”

Wilson’s campaign echoed that sentiment …

“It’s awfully sad that Todd Atwater and William Herlong have such little support from South Carolina Republicans that they’ve had to resort to fighting over the support of a disgraced politician that Alan Wilson convicted for violating ethics laws,” said Mark Knoop, Wilson’s campaign manager.

We reached out to Ard, who reaffirmed his long-held contention that Wilson’s prosecution against him six years ago was “politically motivated.”

“I’ve always maintained the most dangerous thing in a free society is a politically motivated individual with the power to indict,” he told us, referring to Wilson.

“All I’ve ever asked is to be fed out of the same spoon as everybody else,” he said.  “My mistakes are well-documented, I took responsibility for them and I paid a pretty severe price for them.  I knocked the dust off and moved on.”

Ard added that in South Carolina “there is one set of rules for outsiders and another set of rules for political insiders.”

“I’ll let the public decide which set of rules they used on me,” he said.

That’s a fair point … although even if you think Ard got a raw deal (or you think others got sweetheart deals for doing much worse) his support for Atwater remains troubling.  Handing over the microphone to let Atwater share his thoughts with Pee Dee voters is one thing (hell, we have repeatedly offered him our microphone) but Ard took things a step further and seemed to be actively encouraging voters to support his candidacy.

That’s unfortunate …

(Click to view)

(Via Travis Bell Photography)

As we have repeatedly documented, Atwater (above) is one of the most corrupt politicians the Palmetto State has ever seen – habitually voting on legislation that benefited the S.C. Medical Association (SCMA), a special interest group which had the audacity to continue employing him after his election to the S.C. House of Representatives in 2010.

This news site first exposed Atwater’s ethically challenged “double-dipping” arrangement several years ago.  More recently, we reported how Atwater routinely failed to recuse himself from voting on SCMA interests.  In fact, he took it upon himself to decide for himself when he should (or shouldn’t) refrain from voting – telling the public this self-policing policy was okay because he had erected a “Chinese Wall” between his public and private offices.

“Turns out Atwater’s wall was more like a wet paper towel,” we wrote last year.

Earlier this year, we exposed how Atwater took it a step further – habitually advocating on behalf of SMCA interests even as he was telling the press he “stayed away” from issues involving the group.

Unreal …

Back in March, we exclusively reported on questionable raises Atwater received from SCMA – raises which came as he was voting on numerous issues near and dear to the heart of his employer (again, something he explicitly told the mainstream media he didn’t do).

And let’s not forget the glaring discrepancies we uncovered between the money Atwater made from SCMA (according to federal tax forms) and the money he reported making to the S.C. State Ethics Commission (SCSEC).

Add it all up and it’s just nauseating.  In fact, in all our years of covering corrupt politicians in state government, we have never seen anything as brazen as what Atwater pulled off from 2011-2017.

And yet this guy has the gall to call himself an “ethics champion?”  And thinks he deserves to become the state’s top prosecutor?

Sheesh … where is a lightning strike when we need one?

Obviously Ard is well within his rights to promote any candidate or issue he wishes to promote on his air.  For whatever reason(s) he chooses.  He’s paying for the mic, after all.  But it remains profoundly disappointing to see him embrace a candidate like Atwater.

We’ve long believed that Ard – who has masterfully rehabilitated his image in the aftermath of the 2012 scandal – has a future in Palmetto politics (assuming he wants one), but backing candidates like Atwater risks tainting the brand he has built for himself.

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