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March 09, 2012 11:58 AM Cackalackey Chaos

By Ed Kilgore

My native state of South Carolina is not one unfamiliar with political scandals, to be sure. But today’s resignation of Lt. Gov. Ken Ard (apparently as part of a plea agreement subsequent to a criminal investigation) was still something of a bombshell.

Ard (a Republican who is elected separately from the governor under SC’s system) was nailed for a large pattern of financial irregularities and reporting violations. But the backstory is pretty interesting. I normally avoid quoting from or linking to Will Folks, the bad-boy Palmetto State blogger most notorious for claiming an extramarital affair with his former boss (and now Gov.) Nikki Haley, if only because the man is a relentless self-promoter of (sometimes) dubious credibility. But he’s been all over this story for a good while, and seems to know the players very well:

S.C. Lt. Gov. Ken Ard’s resignation can be traced to a mountain cabin just across the South Carolina state line …

There, near Cedar Mountain, N.C., three prominent Palmetto democratic operatives - Phil Bailey, Tyler Jones and Lachlan McIntosh - met in January to chart a new course for an ailing party. It was a grim time for South Carolina Democrats, with South Carolina Republicans pulling off a clean sweep of the state’s nine constitutional offices (and picking up a handful of seats in the S.C. House of Representatives).
“We were so frustrated with the fact that all these Republicans won because they had a ‘R’ behind their name,” Jones says. “Our objective was to show people that’s a stupid way to vote.”
“We’re gonna set a new tone with these guys,” Bailey explains….
A few weeks later, McIntosh was pouring through filing information on the S.C. State Election Commission (SCSEC) website when he noticed a pattern of irregular expenses on Ard’s campaign finance disclosure forms.
“When I saw it, I knew exactly what was happening,” McIntosh says. “He had ethics problems before that (which) the press never wrote about, but this stuff was clearly illegal….”
McIntosh called Bailey and Jones with his findings, getting second opinions as well as soliciting their assistance in bringing the story to the attention of the state’s mainstream press.
What response did they get from the media? Nothing … not a peep.

To make a long murky saga short, the operatives (who had already contacted the authorities) got the information into the hands of “alternative journalist” Corey Hutchins of the Columbia Free Times, who broke the story on Jan. 31.

Within days, Ard was slapped with over 100 violations and later assessed more than $60,000 worth of ethics fines, although an accompanying report published by the S.C. State Ethics Commission (SCSEC) revealed a damning pattern of deception that was much more troubling than the original allegations.
According to the ethics report, Ard’s illegal use of campaign funds for personal purposes was much more flagrant than originally suspected. Also, the report revealed that Ard repeatedly provided false information to investigators - fabricating an official “economic development” pretense for a family vacation to Washington, D.C. and concocting a story about buying his wife Tammy an inaugural gown as an excuse for some of the personal clothing expenses.
In addition to these allegations Ard has also been accused of running a “cash for contributions” scam in which money was given to donors in exchange for them agreeing to cut a check to his campaign.
In light of all these allegations, S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson referred Ard’s case to the statewide grand jury last July … which eventually resulted in Ard’s decision to resign his office as part of a plea agreement.

So it’s a story of elected-official arrogance, partisanship, and MSM negligence, it appears. In South Carolina, they don’t have small scandals; they live large.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

Comments

  • Caffiend on March 09, 2012 12:23 PM:

    As we like to say 'round these parts, "South Carolina...to small to be a republic, to large to be an insane asylum."

    "enviva paid" seems somehow appropriate, given the post content...

  • stevio on March 09, 2012 12:35 PM:

    Third world-like. S.C.: Stocked with low information voters being fed low amounts of low information by 3rd. World Dixi-crats.

    What a wonderful place to raise your children...

  • Ron Byers on March 09, 2012 12:36 PM:

    The key story here is the apparent partnership between the media in South Carolina and the Republican party. A lot of important people in the local media should be fired for setting on this story. They won't because the were just doing the jobs they have been hired to do by their ideological owners.

    My guess is the lack of media coverage of this kind of scandal happens all over the country all the time.

    Here in Missouri we have to go to alternative media sites like Show Me Progress to even hear about what the local politicians are up to.

  • Ron Byers on March 09, 2012 12:42 PM:

    Now that I think about it, I would love to see an organization that functions like the AP feeding stories to alternative media. Just a dream, but linking all the alternative media sites could deliver a blow for integrity in government.

    Full disclosure, our own Blue Girl is deeply involved with the Show Me Progress site, and she is an old friend of mine.

  • SadOldVet on March 09, 2012 1:03 PM:

    It continues to be a misnomer to provide them with the MSM! They are the Corporately Owned Media.

  • TCinLA on March 09, 2012 1:16 PM:

    What do you expect for the state founded by the Barbadian pirates? All those Southern scum are big on tradition, right? He's just carrying on the old Barbadian pirate tradition.

  • Tramey on March 09, 2012 1:16 PM:

    Is there some unique South Carolina significance to the word "cackalackey"?

  • Bat of Moon on March 09, 2012 1:27 PM:

    I read an Associated Press article a couple days ago about Ard, and it was maddeningly vague about what he had supposedly done wrong. Story was mostly about longtime friends and political acquaintances saying what a good guy Ard is and tut-tutting about his sloppiness at record keeping. That would have been written by the AP's crackerjack state bureau.

  • Daddy Love on March 09, 2012 1:48 PM:

    One does not "pour" over financial information, one pores over it.

  • boatboy_srq on March 09, 2012 2:24 PM:

    Speaking as a former resident of FL, this sounds like just another day in Confederate - er, Southern - politicking. Nice to see that we're starting to see these b######s get called on it. Now if only Vern Buchanan were indicted...

    @Daddy Love: one does, indeed, pour over financial information - preferably coffee, ink, syrup or some other equally permanent obstacle to reading it. Ard no doubt wishes he'd poured over his documents more thoroughly.

  • dalloway on March 09, 2012 3:17 PM:

    Bat of Moon, the first thing I do when I read a news article is to see if AP supplied it. If they have, it's almost always slanted so far to the right I sprain my neck reading it. AP is another mouthpiece for Republicans, part of the mythical liberal media.

  • MuddyLee on March 09, 2012 4:54 PM:

    First Ard, next Haley? I can dream can't I? It's certainly true that most of the media in SC is incredibly sympathetic to Republicans - the small town papers can be even worse than The State (Columbia SC) newspaper. At least the Charleston paper has had some criticism of Nikki Haley. She should be impeached - somebody started a Facebook page called Impeach Nikki Haley (good for them).

  • JS on March 09, 2012 4:59 PM:

    I always figured there were three K's in "Kackalacky".

  • MuddyLee on March 10, 2012 8:27 AM:

    Interesting factoid: SC Attorney General Alan Wilson is the son of Congressman Joe "You Lie" Wilson. Glad to see he's having to earn his money going after a republican who had no business running for statewide office to start with (one of many in our state of course). Next up? Haley's superintendent of education (who is actually against public education or at least the proper funding of it)? Haley herself? I hope Mitt selects her as his VP - she is Palin with a different accent.

  • MuddyLee on March 10, 2012 8:45 AM:

    Sorry to post again, BUT - just read that Ken Ard the former Lt Gov of South Carolina pled guilty to all charges and got a slap on the wrist: probation, $5000 fine, 300 hours of community service. Good thing he only tried to rig an election and didn't try to rob a convenience store of $100.