SC Lt. Gov. Charged With 106 Ethics Violations
South Carolina's newly-elected lieutenant governor has been charged with 106 counts of violating the state's campaign ethics laws. That number - 106 counts - sounds pretty dramatic. But Winthrop political scientist Scott Huffmon says the charges probably won't force Lieutenant Governor Ken Ard out of office - or even into court. "Despite the seemingly large number of accusations, there's a good chance a lot of this can be resolved through fines and no major legal action will be taken," says Huffmon. Huffmon says such fines are very common for political candidates - partly because campaign finance reports can be pretty complicated to fill out. Ard is charged with spending about $12,000 from his campaign fund on personal meals, gas, hotels and clothing after he was elected in November. Some of the counts are for just a few dollars - a coffee at Starbucks or a sandwich at Chick-Fil-A. The larger expenses include $2,500 for airfare, hotel and meals on an Ard family vacation to Washington, D.C. over the holidays. State law prohibits the use of campaign money for personal gain, but Huffmon says the difference isn't always obvious. For example, the $800 Ard spent on a dress for his wife to wear at his inauguration. "His argument is 'Hey, that's very related because had I not been elected I wouldn't have needed the ball gown,'" says Huffmon. "Sometimes that line is in a murky gray area." The South Carolina Ethics Commission will convene a formal hearing on the charges against Ard this summer. Lieutenant Governor Ken Ard said in a statement he will take "full responsibility" for any mistakes he made, "correct them and move forward."