Lieutenant governor is facing 92 ethics charges

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COLUMBIA --- South Carolina's ethics watchdog agency on Wednesday charged Lt. Gov. Ken Ard with 92 counts of using campaign money for personal purposes and failing to disclose campaign spending.

The State Ethics Commission said it found probable cause to bring charges on 69 counts of converting campaign money to personal use. It also found probable cause for 23 counts of failing to disclose spending.

The commission has been reviewing the Republican's filings since shortly after he took office in January and reporters asked about Ard spending nearly $25,000 from his campaign accounts since the November election. That spending included $3,000 at a Florence Best Buy store and $800 at a women's apparel store.

After the stories, Matthew Watson, of Columbia, filed a complaint Feb. 2 with the commission. Watson did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment.

Watson's complaint outlined spending on airfare, restaurants and a trip to Atlanta while the University of South Carolina played in the SEC championship.

Watson told the commission in his written complaint: "Campaign accounts are for the purpose of a campaign. They were not intended to be used as a personal slush fund or for a candidate to live off of."

Ard told a reporter for the Columbia Free Times : "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."

Ard's lawyer, Butch Bowers, did not immediately respond to messages left on his cell phone. Ethics Commission Executive Director Herb Hayden said he would not comment on the case.

The commission said it met Wednesday to review the agency staff's investigation. It said a hearing notice will be posted with more details in the next few days.


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