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S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley And Lt. Gov. Ken Ard Embroiled In Scandals (AUDIO)

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In South Carolina, two of the state's top executives are embroiled in scandals that - anywhere else - might have the potential to remove them from office.

When she was campaigning, newly elected Gov. Nikki Haley said if she won that she would step down from office if proof of an affair emerged between her and two men who claimed to have had sexual relations with the married mother of two.

A blogger and a lobbyist have each signed separate affidavits swearing their allegations are true.

Will Folks, who runs FITSnews.com and is a former spokesman for the state's previous Republican governor, Mark Sanford, is currently shopping a book proposal that details his alleged affair with Haley.

Last week he released a steamy excerpt.

In response, Haley took to her Facebook page, declaring that a FOX affiliate that reported on the excerpt was a "tabloid news station" with "no concept of journalism."

Meanwhile, South Carolina's lieutenant governor has recently found himself facing his own big scandal.

The newly elected Republican, Ken Ard, is defending himself against serious questions from the State Ethics Commission that arose last week. Regulators want to know how the former county councilman spent nearly $25,000 of campaign cash in the two months between being sworn in and being elected.

The lieutenant governor's campaign purchases include nearly $800 at a woman's fashion boutique and a hotel tab in Atlanta at the time the USC Gamecocks were playing in that city for the South Eastern Conference game. Ard also spent about $1,100 of campaign money on meals, including coffee runs, and a $200 dinner bill on his birthday.

"It seems like the man can't eat a meal without putting it on his campaign account," said Ethics Commission attorney Cathy Hazelwood.

Initially, when contacted by the Columbia-based alt-weekly Free Times, the former county councilman implied he was just a sloppy bookkeeper.

"I'll be honest, I'm not really good at dotting i's and crossing t's, but I've got a lot -- a lot -- of money in here and I'm certainly not spending any money on my own personal behalf," Ard told Free Times in a January 31st phone call. "I've got a vast amount of my personal wealth tied up in this campaign and I'm just trying to recoup as much of that as I can."

When confronted with those published comments by an Associated Press reporter the following day, however, Ard apparently didn't remember saying them.

"I have no idea where he got those remarks from," Ard told the AP. "They were incredibly misconstrued."

The Free Times has since released a tape of the phone conversation.

Since then, reporters uncovered that Ard had a history of ethics problems that stemmed from when he was on county council, something it appears his Democratic opposition missed during the campaign.

Lachlan McIntosh, who ran Democrat Ashley Cooper's campaign against Ard in the fall, says he didn't know about Ard's previous ethics violations and adds that apparently neither did any of Ard's GOP primary opponents.

He believes that all of what is playing out now for Ard is a symptom of South Carolina's status as such a heavily Republican state. On November 2, Republicans swept all nine statewide offices in South Carolina for the first time ever and picked up a handful of seats in the state Legislature.

But the perils of its status as a one-party state are perhaps becoming clear.

"One party rule almost always leads to the elections of corrupt or unqualified people," McIntosh says. "Or as in Ken Ard's case, corrupt and unqualified people."
One top South Carolina Democrat might be bracing for the worst.

"Lieutenant Governor Ard seems like a nice enough fellow and assuming he didn't do anything wrong and he tells the truth, I'm sure he'll be just fine," said Senate Minority Leader John Land in a statement. "If these allegations turn out to be true, then we have a big ol' mess on our hands."

What would really be a "big ol' mess" is if Haley and Ard don't make it through the fire before their next election.

Winthrop University political science professor Scott Huffomon says the likelihood of both the governor and lieutenant governor being forced from office at the same time is slim, but adds that it's interesting to think about.

"Nobody thinks past the lieutenant governor," he says. "This will make a lot of people think."

State ethics investigations like the one Ard is facing generally drag on, Huffmon says, and it would take something of a "nuclear option" by the commission to force him from office.

As for Haley and Ard both having to step down?

"Is there any rock-solid honest-to-goodness proof beyond a shadow of a doubt that Nikki Haley had an affair? And even if there is would she actually honor the pledge to step down?" Huffmon asks. "I think it's unlikely of all those things - and the investigation [into Ard] - coming to fruition at any one time, but you know what, sometimes the guy playing the lottery hits the jackpot."