On Record is a regular feature which lets South Carolina’s policy-makers speak their mind about the issues most important to them. If you’re interested in guest-blogging for On Record, email PPR Editor Logan Smith. Today’s column is from Tyler Jones of SC Forward Progress.
It has been over a year since Republican Lieutenant Governor Ken Ard was busted by Free Times reporter Corey Hutchins for participating in a wildly illegal campaign spending spree that ruined his political career before it even began. You remember, he’s the guy who bought Playstations, iPads, big screen televisions, women’s clothing, and luxury vacations, while charging it all to his campaign credit card. Yet a year later, Ard is still presiding over the state Senate, endorsing Presidential candidates, giving speeches around the state, and doing all the things a normal constitutional officer would do.
But Ken Ard isn’t a normal constitutional officer. Since June of last year, he has been under investigation by the state grand jury for clearly violating (and virtually urinating on) South Carolina ethics laws. In any other state, he would either be in jail, or at least out of office. If he were a Democrat, God knows where he’d be right now — probably Guantanamo Bay. So what is taking so long?
Perhaps it’s the fact that uber-partisan Attorney General Alan Wilson is the one leading the grand jury investigation. Wilson wastes no time in appearing almost weekly on Fox News to criticize Democrats, but his silence on the Ard case has baffled political observers in South Carolina. Is he hoping we’ll forget? Perhaps. Will we forget? Not a chance.
Alan Wilson has an opportunity to prosecute a corrupt member of his own party – something most politicians can only dream of doing once in their career, especially those with ambition for higher office. Ken Ard is not popular. He isn’t well known. His indictment won’t bring down the Republican Party. And his successor will be a Republican. It is no secret that Alan Wilson has his sights set on the Governor’s mansion, and prosecuting Ken Ard could potentially be his ticket. Especially with the state of the current scandal-ridden administration, Wilson would be primed to challenge a vulnerable Nikki Haley in 2014.
But what does it say about Wilson if he doesn’t successfully indict Ard? Well, simply put, it would be bad. Real bad. It would mean he doesn’t have the courage to stand up to corruption within his own party. And it would show that he is more interested in protecting the people in the Republican Party than he is the people of South Carolina. It might even cost him his next election.
Rumors have been swirling that Wilson is intentionally dragging his feet on this case and deliberately running out the clock in order to give Ard time to announce he’s not running for re-election. There has even been talk that Wilson directed witnesses to testify twice in order to change their stories to protect Ard. I truly hope these rumors are just that – rumors. Nevertheless, Wilson has a decision to make. Will he lean into the inside pitch and take one for the team? Or will he finally swing his bat and crush a homerun for South Carolina?
It’s a 3-2 count, with two outs in the ninth, Mr. Attorney General. You can’t hit foul balls forever. Swing the bat and win one for South Carolina. In other words, do your job.