Good riddance to another South Carolina Tea Party busybody! Let's hope Governor Haley is next, even if she DOES get the cover of Italian Vogue.
From the Charleston Post and Courier (story by Robert Behre):
COLUMBIA -- Ken Ard quickly rose to prominence in S.C. politics as a tea party favorite, hailing his business credentials and his family's roots in Pamplico, a Florence County town so small it lacked a traffic light.
Ard's political career crashed around him Friday, and the Republican lieutenant governor resigned in disgrace.
In an unprecedented sequence of events, Ard then:
:: Was slapped with seven ethics violations by a state grand jury.
:: Pleaded guilty in a Columbia courtroom, tearfully asked a circuit judge for mercy.
:: Was spared prison but was given five years' probation, a $5,000 fine and 300 hours of community service.
Ard's legal woes reverberated far beyond his office. Charleston Republican Glenn McConnell also resigned Friday as Senate president pro tempore, a post considered the most powerful in state government, to assume the state's largely ceremonial, part-time lieutenant governor job, as the state constitution calls for.
Friday's unprecedented sequence of events stemmed from Ard's decision, the year before his 2010 election, to funnel his own money through friends back into his own campaign so it appeared that he had far more financial supporters than he actually did.
That would work to scare off potential primary opponents.
S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson noted that Ard could have contributed legally as much money to his bid as he wanted -- and Ard did spend about $525,000 on his own race. But it was $75,000 of his money that Ard deceitfully funneled through others and back into his campaign that led to four charges of unlawful reimbursement of campaign funds, Wilson said.
Ard also pleaded guilty to two counts of filing false reports stemming from about $87,500 in phantom contributions that were never made to him. The last count was for using his campaign money for personal use, a charge for which he already had paid a $60,900 ethics fine, the second-highest in the state's history.
"Campaign transparency was in reality campaign deceit," Wilson said. "Nothing is more important than our election process. The people have a right to true and accurate information so that the voters can make their own judgment. ... If the process is falsely manipulated, its purpose is destroyed."
From his resignation statement to his appearance before Circuit Judge G. Thomas Cooper, Ard did not attempt to gloss over his failings.
"Your honor, I stand here accepting 100 percent of the blame," he said. "I stand here humble, apologetic."
Ard's voice cracked as he mentioned his wife and three children by name, saying they and his supporters have been better to him than he has deserved. Ard said he was "ashamed" of what he had done, but noted that he can't undo it. "All I can do is say I'm sorry."
He also said he would love to have the day back when he sat in his truck and conceived of the illegal campaign financing scheme.
"I don't regret much, but I regret this as much as anything I've ever done in my life," he said.
Eddie Floyd of Florence County said he deeply regrets advising Ard that he did not need to spend thousands of dollars on a professional campaign consultant, and Floyd said he would serve Ard's sentence for him if he could.
Ken Jackson, a business associate of Ard, expressed the same regret, saying Ard never was one to tend to details. "He is what you might call a 'manager by walking around.' He is not a detail person."
The Rev. Jim Crooks, Ard's pastor, said he has come to love Ard in spite of his mistakes in this case. "I like his realness," Crooks said. "He's been straight up ... he has not tried to lie his way out of it, and I admire that about him."
Left: Ken Ard, guilty guilty guilty.Well, *I* thought a prison sentence was appropriate today, and every day, for lying politicians. (Read the rest of it.)
Cooper noted that he, like Ard, also once served on a county council, adding, "I think you have done a disservice to the people of South Carolina by these actions." Cooper also told Ard that he was different from most criminals who appear before his court. "Some might say this sentence is harsh. Some might say it's lenient," Cooper said. "I do not feel a prison sentence is appropriate today."
Wilson said he expects no further indictments in the case by the state grand jury. He noted that all witnesses had cooperated.
As a politician who also won his first statewide office in 2010 and who campaigned alongside Ard as part of the GOP ticket, Wilson he still personally likes Ard and wishes his family the best.
"I entered this day with a heavy heart. I leave it with a heavy heart," Wilson said. "There's nothing fun about this."
For those following Friday's news as it broke, there were few lulls.
At 9:40 a.m., Wilson's office said he would discuss the statewide grand jury later in the day. Ard submitted his resignation to Gov. Nikki Haley by 10 a.m. Wilson met with a swarm of reporters at 1 p.m., then he and Ard appeared in a courtroom an hour later.
Meanwhile, dogged Will Folks is still on the case. He pointedly asks where our fashion-plate Governor had gone off to, during the Ken Ard extravaganza? Good question:
So where was South Carolina’s embattled governor, Nikki Haley, during all of this turmoil?It's like when they caught Spiro before they caught Nixon.
That’s easy … she was sipping drinks at the luxurious Ritz-Carlton hotel in Palm Beach, Florida, where she and her husband Michael were attending the 2012 Club for Growth winter conference. In fact the governor and First Gentleman were spotted “enjoying some Cabernet” with Jon Fleischman, editor of a 1990s-themed California political blog.
Wait … Haley? At a Club for Growth event? With her atrocious fiscal record?
Apparently so … in fact Haley goes to these sorts of things all the time … all over the country.
Doesn't seem fair, somehow, does it?
Stay tuned, sports fans.