Ard says he has no plans to resign

Ken Ard

COLUMBIA -- Lt. Gov. Ken Ard said Tuesday that he has no plans to resign, despite a state grand jury investigation into his campaign spending.

The first-term Republican presided over the Legislature's special one-day session for redistricting. Ard would say little.

"We are completely cooperating with the AG's office to bring this thing to a conclusion," Ard said. "I have no plans to resign."

Attorney General Alan Wilson, also a Republican, sent his review of Ard's campaign spending to the state grand jury on July 20 for a criminal investigation.

Ard, a former Florence County councilman, paid the second-largest ethics fine in state history after Sanford for using his campaign cash on personal items, including football tickets, gaming equipment and a family vacation to Washington.

The situation has raised questions about whether Charleston Republican Senate President Pro Tem Glenn McConnell would step up to be lieutenant governor if Ard leaves office or is forced out.

For now, Ard's comments put that speculation to rest.

If Ard is indicted by the grand jury, he could be suspended.

Republicans, including Gov. Nikki Haley, continue to say they will wait for the investigation to be complete before drawing conclusions.

Democrats, meanwhile, have called repeatedly for Ard to resign. Some lawmakers tried to introduce legislation Tuesday to allow voters to recall the election of statewide officials, a bill aimed at Ard.

A handful of legislators also want to push for the state to eliminate the lieutenant governor's position.

Neither of those proposals will be considered until next year, if at all.

The state's lieutenant governor presides over the Senate and oversees the state Office on Aging.

Rep. Boyd Brown, D-Winnsboro, blamed Republicans for not taking quick action on the legislation to recall elections.

"Ken Ard's unwillingness to do what is right is a clear example as to why the people of South Carolina deserve a chance to recall elected officials," Brown said. "If he does not step aside, he should be removed from office."

Reach Yvonne Wenger at 803-926-7855, follow her at @yvonnewenger and read her Political Briefings blog.

Nov. 2: Ken Ard, a Florence Republican, is elected lieutenant governor.

Jan. 12: Ard is sworn-in.

Jan. 31: Ard tells the Free Times, a Columbia-based alternative weekly: “I’ll be honest, I’m not really good at dotting i’s and crossing t’s, but I’ve got a lot — a lot — of money in here and I’m certainly not spending any money on my own personal behalf. 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 can.”

Feb. 1: The state Ethics Commission announces it will review Ard’s campaign finance reports to determine whether he used his campaign cash for personal use. Ard has spent nearly $25,000 since his election.

Feb. 10: The Ethics Commission cites Ard for late, incomplete and missing campaign finance reports, dating back to 2008 from his time on Florence County Council.

Feb. 15: The Ethics Commission’s deadline for Ard to provide details on the money he spent from his 2010 campaign account.

March 16: The commission charges Ard with 69 counts of converting campaign cash to personal use and 23 counts of failure to disclose campaign expenditures, between Nov. 3 and Dec. 31.

March 18: Ethics investigators issue a 24-page notice of hearing to Ard that details more than 100 counts of alleged wrongdoing, including using campaign cash to buy football tickets, spending about $1,700 in clothing for himself and his wife and taking a family vacation in Washington, D.C.

June 30: Ard signs a check for more than $60,000 to the Ethics Commission to cover fines and administrative costs to settle his case and agrees to a consent order. It’s the second-largest fine in state history. He also pays more than $12,000 back to his campaign.

July 5: Republican Attorney General Alan Wilson announces that he is reviewing Ard’s case to determine whether he should be prosecuted.

July 20: Wilson and State Law Enforcement Division Chief Mark Keel call for the state grand jury to conduct a criminal investigation on Ard.

July 21: Democrats continue to call for Ard to resign. Republican say they’ll wait for the justice system to do its job before jumping to conclusions.

July 26: Ard convenes the Senate as it takes up redistricting.