State grand jury indicts Lt. Gov. Ken Ard on 7 criminal ethics charges

Attorney General Alan Wilson as he addresses the media on Friday. (Dave MacQueen/WCIV)

By Brian

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCIV) -- Attorney General Alan Wilson said Lt. Gov. Ken Ard decided to step down from his position after the state grand jury returned seven charges.

In a 1 p.m. press conference, Wilson said the indictment came following an investigation by law enforcement officials. Wilson said the criminal charges against Ard related to his alleged misuse of campaign funds.

Wilson took the time to thank law enforcement and state government officials who assisted in the ethics investigation.

"If the process is falsely manipulated, its purpose is destroyed," Wilson said.

The attorney general did not speak of specifics in the case, but he showed emotions and spoke sternly as he said campaign funds should never be used for personal reasons.

"Campaign funds cannot be used as a candidate's own personal slush fund," Wilson said.

Sen. Brad Hutto of Orangeburg said the charges and the lieutenant governor's resignation are not just a reflection of Ken Ard but a reflection of South Carolina's government as a whole.

"This saga is not solely about Lieutenant Governor Ard. South Carolina state government has been in a state of total chaos for the last decade. Between Governors Sanford and Haley, our government has reached an unbelievable low. It's simply sad," Hutto said.

In a release issued Friday morning, Gov. Haley thanked Ken Ard for his service and described her second in command and his family as "good people."

Senate Pro Tem Glenn McConnell, will now fill the lt. governor position as required by law. McConnell has announced a 3:30 p.m. press conference in which he is expected to make remarks on how his state government responsibilities will change in wake of Ard's resignation.

Official statement released by Attorney General Alan Wilson just prior to the 1 p.m. press conference:

"As a result of a comprehensive investigation that began last July when this office requested this case from the State Ethics Commission, the State Grand Jury, acting pursuant to its public corruption authority, returned, today, an indictment charging James Kenneth Ard with seven counts of violating the State Ethics Act."

"In summary, the State Grand Jury charges Mr. Ard with a scheme, developed as part of his candidacy for Lt. Governor, to create the false appearance of a groundswell of political support through fictitious or bogus campaign contributions. These donations to Mr. Ard's campaign were not a genuine demonstration of financial support. Instead, they represented cash in the amount of $75,000 which was funneled from Mr. Ard to others and ultimately back to his campaign as purported contributions from citizens in the community."

"The State Grand Jury also charges that phantom contributions in the amount of approximately $87,500 were a part of Mr. Ard's scheme. Such contributions were either not made at all by the person listed or were not made in the amount reported."

"The funneled, as well as the phantom contributions, were certified to the State Ethics Commission and reported to the public at large as true and correct. They were not true and correct. Campaign transparency was in reality campaign deceit."

"Mr. Ard is charged with four counts of unlawful reimbursement of campaign contributions; two counts of falsely filing campaign reports; and one count encompassing multiple acts of personal use of campaign funds. The State Grand Jury charges invoke Sections 8-13-1344(D), 8-13-1308 and 8-13-1438 of the State Ethics Act. All seven counts are punishable pursuant to Section 8-13-1520 and constitute misdemeanor offenses. Upon conviction, each offense carries a penalty of up to $5,000 in fines and/or up to one year in prison."

"An indictment is, of course, a probable cause determination that crimes have occurred. Like any other citizen charged with a crime, Mr. Ard is presumed innocent until proven guilty."