COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Lieutenant Governor Ken Ard will be charged with 69 counts of converting campaign funds to personal use, the State Ethics Commission announced on Wednesday.
At a meeting on Wednesday to discuss an ethics complaint regarding Ard's post-election spending, the State Ethics Commission found probable cause to bring the charges, according to Executive Director Herb Hayden. Hayden said Ard will also be charged with 23 counts of failure to disclose campaign expenditures.
Records show Ard has spent over $1,100 on meals out of a nearly $25,000 fund since he won the Nov. 2 election. State law bars use of campaign cash for personal expenses.
Columbia resident Matthew K. Watson filed the ethics complaint after Ard's mid-January campaign disclosure report showed Ard used campaign funds for things like a hotel room for the SEC Championship, gas, food, meals, airfare across the country, postage, advertising, phone services and consulting.
One entry classified as spending for "supplies" appears to center on $799.20 in expenses at a Florence women's boutique. Ard also ran up a $3,056.30 bill for computer equipment at a Florence Best Buy.
"Campaign accounts were not intended to be used as a personal slush fund or for a candidate to live off," Watson said in his complaint.
"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 told the Columbia Free Times about his spending.
Hayden said a formal Notice of Hearing will be issued in the next few days detailing the specific charges against Ard. Hayden said the commission would continue to investigate Ard's campaign expenses, and additional charges may result.
Ard told the Associated Press Wednesday night that he will answer any questions the commission has. He says he will take responsibility for any mistakes he may have made and look to correct them.
Ard served as Florence County Councilman and Chairman of the Florence County Republican Party before being elected lieutenant governor in November.