Then-Lt. Gov. Ken Ard presides over the Senate on Thursday in Columbia,… (Tim Dominick / The State/Associated…)
Reporting from Atlanta — South Carolina Lt. Gov. Ken Ard resigned Friday morning, declaring it was in the "best interest" of the state after a months-long probe into abuses of his campaign war chest, including allegations that he spent the money on a video game console and expensive clothing for his wife, among other things.
Ard, who was elected in November 2010, had his resignation letter delivered to the office of fellow Republican Gov. Nikki Haley Friday morning.
In a separate statement, Ard issued an apology to his staff, family and the people of South Carolina.
"During my campaign, it was my responsibility to make sure things were done correctly. I did not do that," it reads. "There are no excuses nor is there need to share blame. It is my fault that the events of the past year have taken place."
Ard, 48, is co-owner of a truck-body manufacturing company and served as a member of the Florence, S.C., county council before his election to the lieutenant governor's post.
"Hard work, common sense and fiscal discipline were lessons Ken learned at an early age," according to the biography on the lieutenant governor's website.
In a July 2011 consent order, the state ethics commission fined Ard $48,400, and ordered him to pay thousands more in reimbursements to the commission and his campaign account over a number of infractions, including using campaign funds for fuel, meals, hotel rooms, a PlayStation 3, women's clothing for his wife, and tickets to the SEC football championship game in Atlanta.
On Christmas 2010, Ard took a trip to Washington, D.C., with his wife and three children and charged it to his campaign account, telling investigators he flew there to meet with Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.) to discuss economic development issues.
When investigators called the senator's office, they found that no such meeting had taken place. Graham, it turns out, was back in South Carolina for Christmas.
South Carolina media is widely reporting on speculation in Columbia, the state capitol, that Ard could be indicted by a grand jury.
According to the State, the Columbia paper, the state Constitution mandates that the Senate president pro tempore, Sen. Glenn McConnell (R-Charleston), take over, although that may arguably diminish McConnell's power: In South Carolina, the lieutenant governor's job is a largely ceremonial one, although he or she does wield some influence as president of the state Senate and overseer of the state office on aging.
Another Republican state senator, John Courson, has expressed interest in the job, according to the paper.
Perhaps more interesting, in the long run, is the as-yet-unanswered question about the cumulative political effect of numerous recent Republican scandals on that party's intense popularity in the conservative Deep South state.
Among other incidents, a state treasurer resigned in 2007 after a cocaine possession indictment, and in 2009, then-Gov. Mark Sanford confessed to an extramarital affair with an Argentine woman after disappearing from office to visit her.
The party holds all nine statewide offices and controls both legislative chambers.
Gov. Haley received a 34.6% statewide approval rating in a poll released in December by South Carolina's Winthrop University.
"I valued Ken's partnership and wish Ken and his family all of the best going forward," Haley said in a prepared statement Friday.
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