Lt. Gov. Ken Ard took in $23,000 in quarter

Ken Ard

COLUMBIA -- Since his ethics breaches were revealed this year, Lt. Gov. Ken Ard's campaign contributions have dried up in every area except one.

Ard reported on his quarterly campaign disclosure form filed Tuesday that he collected $23,000 in donations, and all but $1,000 came from nursing homes and long-term care facilities. The lieutenant governor oversees the Office on Aging.

A Columbia-based accounting firm contributed $1,000. The only individual listed on the filing is John Barber of Spartanburg, whose is an executive for a company that provides elder care.

Ard could not be reached for comment. He has declined to talk about issues surrounding his campaign contributions in recent weeks, although he said in late June that he accepts full responsibility for any mistakes.

Ard's only other contributions since January were for $1,500 from a Columbia woman who works as a business consultant and a bank's Sumter-based political action committee, according to campaign disclosure forms filed in April.

Ard, a Republican and former Florence County councilman, is under fire for his use of campaign dollars since his November election. The state attorney general's public corruption task force is reviewing the situation.

Attorney General Alan Wilson, also a Republican, must decide whether enough evidence exists to merit an investigation by the State Law Enforcement Division. A decision likely won't come before the end of the week.

Ard was fined $48,400 in late June, made to reimburse the State Ethics Commission $12,500 in investigation costs and pay back $12,000 to his campaign.

The commission charged him with more than 100 ethics violations for his improper use of campaign money on gaming equipment, a flat-screen television, a family vacation and football tickets, among other purchases. The fines took into account inaccurate statements made to ethics investigators.

Democrats have called repeatedly for Ard to resign, but the state Republican Party is not ready to ask the same.

The party's executive director, Matt Moore, said the GOP takes ethics very seriously, and the party is waiting for the results of the attorney general's review to make further comment.

Tyler Jones, a Democratic operative and spokesman for S.C. Forward Progress, said Ard has lost all creditability.

"He has breached his trust with all the donors in South Carolina," Jones said. "Now the only folks willing to give him money are from the one industry Ard has influence over as head of the Office on Aging."

Ard is paid $46,545 for the part-time job. His duties include presiding over the state Senate and overseeing the Office on Aging, which is charged with providing seniors with a high quality of life.

The lieutenant governor also is responsible for taking over as the state's chief executive officer if the governor leaves office or is unable to perform her duties.

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