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Friday, March 9, 2012

Ard Indicted on 7 Counts; Case Focuses on 'Fictitious or Bogus Campaign Contributions'

By Tim Smith and David Dykes

Lt. Governor Ken Ard presided over the SC Senate for the last time yesterday.
A state grand jury indicted former Lt. Gov. Ken Ard on seven counts of violating the State Ethics Act, Attorney General Alan Wilson today.

Ard, who had been the subject of a state grand jury probe into his campaign finances since last year, submitted his resignation this morning. All seven counts are misdemeanors, Wilson said.

Wilson said the state grand jury charged Ard with a scheme, developed as part of his candidacy for lieutenant governor, to create the false appearance of a groundswell of political support through “fictitious or bogus campaign contributions.”

The donations to Ard’s campaign “were not a genuine demonstration of financial support,” Wilson said. “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.”

The state grand jury also charged that “phantom contributions” in the amount of approximately $87,500 were a part of Ard’s scheme, Wilson said. “Such contributions were either not made at all by the person listed or were not made in the amount reported,” Wilson said.

“The funneled, as well as the phantom contributions, were certified to the state Ethics Commission and reported to the public at large as true and correct,” Wilson said. “They were not true and correct. Campaign transparency was in reality campaign deceit.”

Wilson said Ard is charged with four counts of unlawful reimbursement of campaign contributions; two counts of falsely filing campaign reports; and one count encompassing multiple acts of personal use of campaign funds.

Each offense carries a penalty of up to $5,000 in fines and/or up to one year in prison if Ard is convicted, Wilson said.

“An indictment is, of course, a probable cause determination that crimes have occurred,” Wilson said. “Like any other citizen charged with a crime, Mr. Ard is presumed innocent until proven guilty.”

Last July, Wilson said he had referred ethics allegations that resulted from a probe by the state Ethics Commission to the state grand jury.

The Ethics Commission charged Ard, a 48-year-old Florence Republican, with 107 ethics violations in the use of his campaign funds.

In a consent order, the Ethics Commission issued a public reprimand to Ard and ordered him to pay a $48,400 fine. It also called for him to reimburse the Ethics Commission $12,500 to pay for investigative and administrative costs and to reimburse his campaign $12,121 “for personal use of campaign funds,” records show.

Ard, a former Florence County councilman who also chaired that county’s Republican party, took office last year.

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