COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - Former Charleston Sen. Robert Ford faces more allegations that he used campaign donations for personal expenses and misrepresented his spending.
The Senate Ethics Committee issued a complaint Thursday after finding probable cause that the 65-year-old Charleston Democrat improperly used campaign money after he resigned last year as a hearing was going on that publicly detailed similar allegations over four years, which included adult-store purchases.
The complaint, hand-delivered to Ford, alleges ethics violations were found in campaign disclosure reports due last July and October, covering the second and third quarters of last year. Ford resigned May 31, as the second day of his hearing began, which removed the possibility of his colleagues expelling him.
That case is still under review at the attorney general’s office.
“This was a surprise to me,” he said Friday, noting he’s talked with state investigators about the other matter.
Later that day, the 10-member ethics committee determined there was overwhelming evidence to prove that Ford violated eight sections of South Carolina’s ethics law and forwarded all supporting documents to Attorney General Alan Wilson, as per Ford’s request.
Ford still faces those accusations of using campaign donations for personal expenses, misrepresenting his spending, failing to report numerous charges, donations and personal loans and then trying to cover it up. There were multiple specific charges within each broad allegation - one alone containing 357 examples - covering campaign filings between July 2009 and last April.
Runyon blamed the problems on bad bookkeeping by a citizen lawmaker who tried to handle all his accounting and campaign filing without a staff.
“Sen. Ford’s done a lot of good. Bookkeeping isn’t one of them,” he said then.
The previous charges include making a car payment and paying his home utility bill with campaign money, which Runyon said Ford considered a legitimate expense because his home also functioned as his political office. Ford explained adult-store purchases as gag gifts for people who helped with his community work but refused pay. He said somebody fraudulently used his debit card to buy male enhancement pills.
Ford has 15 days to respond. After the hearing, the committee’s options include dismissing the case, issuing a public reprimand, fining Ford $2,000 per violation, and referring the latest allegations to Wilson, too.