SC Lt. Governor Ken Ard's Ethics Fiasco--No Surprise

South Carolina Lt. Gov. Ken Ard faces 92 state ethics charges alleging he used campaign money for personal purposes and failed to disclose campaign spending.

During the primary for Lt Governor in 2009 and leading up to June of 2010, numerous allegations of financial wrongdoing surfaced from various concerned citizens in the Pee Dee region focused on Ken Ard.

The tax records were readily available through the Florence county website showing a rash of late tax payments. Those late taxes were paid 3 days after he announced he was running for Lt Governor.

Numerous people brought up the fact that Ken Ard was given campaign office space in SC GOP headquarters (with some help from the Punk Posse) and then his financial disclosures actually revealed he wasn’t even paying for it. And to top it all off, a tax increase in Florence county that Ken Ard was adamant about passing actually affected property in the county that he owned and would benefit from by work completed using that tax revenue.

The spending DURING the campaign was called into question back in 2009. After a bit of googling/searching, came across this information:

The glaring numbers here come from the Ard campaign as he loaned his campaign $200,000. The loan is obviously a smokescreen to cover up the fact that we were all misled then they reported raising $127,000 in one night (same night as gubernatorial debate) when they actually only show $32,500 raised that night.

That loan appears it will come in handy as his propensity for restaurants and to stay overnight in various hotels around the state has been expensive.

July 21, 2009        Hampton Inn, Columbia, SC   $352.80
July 30, 2009        Marina Inn, Myrtle Beach, SC  $326.14
July 31, 2009        Mariott, Columbia, SC  $195.36
August 3, 2009     Mariott, Hilton Head, SC  $142.75
August 3, 2009     Marina Inn, Myrtle Beach, SC   $534.02
August 4, 2009     Marina Inn, Myrtle Beach, SC   $184.70
August 21, 2009   Hilton, Columbia, SC   $117.47
August 24, 2009   Hampton Inn, Columbia, SC  $102.12
August 24, 2009   On same day stayed in Hampton in Columbia, paid Cains BBQ $449.55, Starfire Grill $53.07, both in Florence. If nothing else, the guy is fast.

On 17 August, Olive Garden, Fatz Cafe and Five Guys all got some of the funds from the campaign. All in Florence.

It’s a bit perplexing how the campaign spent the night at the Mariott in Myrtle Beach and the Marina Inn in Hilton Head on the same night.

The restaurant expenses are far too many to list.

Another expense that also showed up on the 2nd quarter filing is $2250.00 for S and D Aviation. ($2500.00 in 2nd quarter) which explains how Ard might get around so quickly. I don’t think they have a plane fast enough to have him stay in Myrtle Beach and Hilton Head on the same night though.

Total, Ken Ard spent $106,599.089 in the 3rd quarter. Most of it to Hotels, Restaurants, fuel and campaign staff. There’s also $29,000 in payments to voter contact services so if you haven’t received an automated call yet, you will.

For even more pondering, Ken evidently had a fundraising event on a fishing charter located in Georgetown on July 30 while on the same night staying at the Marina Inn in Myrtle Beach. The thing that makes this most curious is the fact there are no contributions/donations to the campaign from July 29 to August 27, 2009.

While there’s a simple explanation for all of these expenses, it’s obvious that Ken Ard is a spender. That’s something we certainly don’t need more of. It appears Mr Ard likes a few things

1) Offshore Fishing

2) Staying overnight in various hotels within 2 hrs of his home. (Myrtle Beach 1 hr 45 mins, Columbia 1 hr 15 minutes)

3) Spending money

One might think I’m picking on Ken Ard here but the other candidates (Connor and Scott) have not shown any tendencies toward this type of spending at all.

So everyone was warned about Ken Ard’s spending habits right?

The problem is, there was a powerful group of legislators that was determined that Ken Ard be elected the Lt Governor. This group, led by Jake Knotts, Luke Rankin and Hugh Leatherman, wanted a Lt Governor in place that would not only be “their guy” presiding over the South Carolina Senate, but would also be a puppet they could put in place so that if whoever got elected Governor had to be replaced, someone they “handled” stepped right in.

A huge worry for the South Carolina Senate RINO caucus was a “Tea Party” guy in Bill Connor being able to preside over “their” senate.

Another worrisome aspect of all this is Ken Ard naming Brant Branham as his Chief of Staff. Branham was heavily involved in the Myrtle Beach “money envelope” scams with the Myrtle Beach Chamber of Commerce, and is being investigated by the FBI along with many others. Part of the investigation by the ethics commission directed at Ken Ard may have something to do with non-disclosure of donations received around the time of an alleged fundraiser for Ard spearheaded by none other than, Brant Branham in Myrtle Beach.

Now here’s the real kicker

While Ken Ard is not expected to resign on his own, the pressure for him to do so may be too much to overcome. These are serious charges and should be dealt with seriously.

In the event that the Lt Governor has to step down or is no longer able to perform duties as Lt Governor and Pro Tempore of the SC Senate, the Senate itself selects his replacement

From the South Carolina Constitution:

SECTION 7. Succession when neither Governor-elect nor Lieutenant Governor-elect qualifies or is able to serve.

In the event that neither the Governor-elect nor the Lieutenant Governor-elect shall qualify, or if after taking the oath of office neither shall be able to serve for any reason whatsoever, the office of Governor for the time being shall devolve upon such officers and in such order of succession as may be provided by law. Any such officers while exercising the powers of the Governor for the time being under this provision shall not be subject to the dual office-holding provision of this Constitution. (1972 (57) 3171; 1973 (58) 48.)

SECTION 9. President Pro Tempore of Senate; Senator acting as Lieutenant Governor.

The Senate shall as soon as practicable after the convening of the General Assembly choose a President Pro Tempore to act in the absence of the Lieutenant Governor. A member of the Senate acting as Lieutenant Governor shall thereupon vacate his seat and another person shall be elected in his stead. (1972 (57) 3171; 1973 (58) 48.)

Right now there is a bill moving through the legislature that requires by law that the Governor and Lt Governor run on the same ticket. Both parties in the South Carolina legislature support the bill and it has been expected to pass. Passage of this bill would effectively take the power to name a Lt Governor out of the hands of the Senate and place it with the Governor.

Obviously, this bill needs to be fast-tracked and the effective date be immediate.

So Ken Ard facing 92 total charges is no surprise at all to those of us that paid attention during the primary in 09 and 2010.

What’s surprising is that it’s just 92 charges