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South Carolina Politician on His Illegal Campaign Finance Scheme: It was a Free-Market Solution to a Fundraising Problem

South Carolina is the Pet Sematary of disgraced politicians: They come back to life and act weirder than ever.
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South Carolina is the Pet Sematary of disgraced politicians: They come back to life and act weirder than ever.

Take former governor Mark Sanford (R-Appalachian Trail) who was elected back to Congress and then melted down on Facebook.

Or turn on the Bravo channel these days for season two of Southern Charm. There you'll find South Carolina's former state treasurer who did a stint in federal prison on cocaine charges and now plays an aristocratic playboy running for the U.S Senate on reality TV.

More recently you might recall the former House Speaker who pleaded guilty to misconduct in office in October and went from being the state's most powerful politician to being a government rat. While press reports from the state capital read like the new regime is using storm damage machinery to rid his stench from the Statehouse, his hometown newspaper portrays an "unrepentant" and "unbowed" ex-Speaker who acts like the locals are still throwing flowers at his feet.

But now, a story in The Charleston Post & Courier has illuminated the second coming of yet another fallen politician from the FacePalmetto State.

Ken Ard, South Carolina's former lieutenant governor who pleaded guilty to seven ethics violations in 2012 is now a popular talk show host in the swamps of South Carolina's Pee Dee region. And this is how he now explains the illegal campaign finance scheme that found him three years ago resigning in "utter disgrace" and choking back tears in front of a state judge:

He didn't like asking for money. So Ard came up with a pick-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps, free-market solution to his fundraising problem. Funnel his own money to donors.

Yes. A Free-market solution to his fundraising problem.

That wasn't exactly how the state attorney general saw it when he prosecuted Ard three years ago. What did this free-market solution to a fundraising problem actually look like?

From Attorney General Alan Wilson in March 2012:

"In summary, the State Grand Jury charges Mr. Ard with a scheme, developed as part of his candidacy for Lt. Governor, to create the false appearance of a groundswell of political support through fictitious or bogus campaign contributions. These donations to Mr. Ard's campaign were not a genuine demonstration of financial support. Instead, they represented cash in the amount of $75,000 which was funneled from Mr. Ard to others and ultimately back to his campaign as purported contributions from citizens in the community."

The man had a paper bag full of cash that he'd dole out to people in parking lots. At trial, prosecutors said one witness described it as feeling less like political fundraising and more like a drug deal.

A pick-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps, free-market solution to his fundraising problem, however, does make it sound a litltle more pleasant.

Cue the late night laugh tracks once again. South Carolina, man. It just couldn't keep happening to a nicer place.

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