S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson said Wednesday that he will ask the state grand jury to investigate allegations of illegal use of campaign money by Lt. Gov. Ken Ard.
“That process will begin immediately,” Wilson said in a statement.
The decision to have the state grand jury investigate a sitting state constitutional officer is historic. After the governor, the lieutenant governor is the second-ranking official in the state.
The grand jury investigation, which could result in an indictment, also increases the pressure on Ard to resign, a move that could set off a wave of backroom deals and political musical chairs in the state Senate.
A judge must approve the request by Wilson – like Ard, a Republican – for a grand jury investigation.
Ard, a 47-year-old Florence Republican, could not be reached for comment.
However, after Wilson’s announcement, Ard released a statement saying he had requested the charges against him be further investigated. “Earlier today I requested that the Attorney General refer my case for a full and complete investigation so that all of the facts in this matter can be determined. I look forward to continuing to work with the Attorney General’s office,” Ard said in an email sent to reporters.
Wilson’s office said Ard made the request only after his attorney was informed the attorney general would recommend the statewide grand jury investigate.
“We notified his (Ard’s) attorney earlier today that we planned to refer the matter to the state grand jury. Some time later, we received a letter via email from that attorney asking for a SLED investigation,” said Wilson spokesman Mark Plowden.
While two statewide officers have resigned after being indicted by federal grand juries in the last decade, the state grand jury has never investigated any state officer, according to the attorney general’s office.
In recent years, indictments produced by the state grand jury primarily have dealt with drug trafficking, gangs and securities fraud, said former S.C. Attorney General Henry McMaster.
For months, Ard’s use of campaign contributions in his 2010 race for lieutenant governor has been the focus of numerous media reports and a State Ethics Commission investigation.
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