Ard receives 5 years probation for bogus campaign contributions, spending abuses

cleblanc@thestate.com March 9, 2012 

Judge Thomas Cooper today sentenced former lieutenant governor Ken Ard to five years of probation, a $5,000 fine and 300 hours of community service.

Ard pleaded guilty to four counts of unlawful reimbursement of campaign funds, two counts of failure to report on campaign documents and one count of using campaign funds for personal use.

Ard was accused of creating “phantom” campaign contributions. He had already paid a civil fine for spending money from his 2010 campaign to pay for personal items, such as football tickets, clothing and a flat-screen TV.

Ard choked up while talking to the judge.

“Your honor, I can’t undo anything,” he said in taking responsibility for his acts. “All I can do is say I’m sorry. I hope you will accept my apology because this is from the bottom of the heart.”

Ard’s five-man defense team said Ard had made unintentional “mistakes” in handling his campaign finances.

After the hearing, State Attorney General Alan Wilson responded to that, saying, “We would not have pursued the prosecution of a mistake.”

Ard faced up to one year in prison and a $5,000 fine on each of the misdemeanor counts.

The state grand jury indicted Ard on seven counts of violating the state’s ethics act. Ard resigned from office this morning.

The indictment, issued today, said Ard funneled at least $75,000 from his campaign to others and ultimately back to himself as “purported contributions from citizens.”

Wilson, with State Law Enforcement Division chief Mark Keel by his side, announced the indictment during a 1 p.m. news conference.

Wilson said Ard was trying to create the impression of a groundswell of support for his candidacy. The contributions were what Wilson called “phantom” contributions – and unusual for South Carolina.

“To our knowledge, the creation of such a fictitious campaign had never been criminally charged before in this state’s history,” Wilson said.

The 48-year-old Republican also was charged with using campaign money for personal expenditures.

The state grand jury began investigating Ard in July.

Ard has already paid a $48,000 civil ethics fine.

Ard resigned this morning. Former Charleston County senator and senate president pro tem Glenn McConnell is the state’s new lieutenant governor, as provided for under the state constitution.

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