The indictment, conviction, and resignation of Lt. Gov. Ken Ard over campaign corruption charges is the latest in a long line of embarrassing moments for the Republican stronghold of South Carolina.
Mary Ann Chastain/AP
Even for the state that produced rabble-rouser Ben “Pitchfork” Tillman, the indictment, conviction, and resignation of South Carolina Lt. Gov. Ken Ard on Friday – yes, all in one day – was unprecedented.
On Friday, a state judge sentenced Mr. Ard, who had been lieutenant governor since November 2010, to five years’ probation, a $5,000 fine and 300 hours of community service after he pleaded guilty to a “phantom contribution” scheme intended to “create the false appearance of a groundswell of political support through fictitious or bogus campaign contributions,” in the words of Attorney General Alan Wilson, a fellow Republican.
Ard acknowledged with his plea that he gave $75,000 of his own money to individuals who then gave it back to the campaign. As part of 106 other violations brought by the state's ethics commission, Ard was also found to have used campaign funds to buy an iPad, a wide screen TV, clothes for his wife, and tickets to the Southeastern Conference championship football game.
“It is my fault that the events of the past year have taken place,” Ard said.
Arguably one of the most Republican states in the Union – and notably the first to secede before the Civil War – South Carolina politics have long been home to often colorful, sometimes shady characters who push the bounds of propriety, and occasionally the law. Once a solidly Democratic state, seven of its eight members of the US House of Representatives and Senate are Republicans, as are its governor and both houses of the legislature.