Former S.C. Democratic Sen. Robert Ford of Charleston
A former South Carolina senator who resigned
in May amid accusations that he'd used campaign funds at adult superstores and to pay for male enhancement drugs is threatening to expose the sitting lawmakers who investigated him. He says they're using their public office to rake in millions and if they don't stop he'll start naming names.
Reached by phone this morning, Ford said he expected his nascent campaign to call out his former colleagues will be a long, drawn-out process.
“This is going to make the Tea Party movement look like a beer drinking contest," Ford says.
Here's an excerpt from a colorful three-page e-mail the ex-senator is circulating, titled “True Ethics in South Carolina”:
“At the time, I was being persecuted and lynched by the Senate Ethics Committee; I had no knowledge that seven of these gentlemen were receiving millions and millions of dollars from the public in their positions as senators. To receive public and legal contracts from state agencies or other public entities and engaging in nepotism at its highest level; and to funnel money through institutions for their charitable groups from which they draw salaries is ludicrous and unethical.
One of the things that I learned in 3rd Grade Civics, when you are elected to public office (when I was in 3rd grade it never crossed my mind that a black person could get elected to public office), you should never as an elected official receive any public contracts while you are serving. So, when I found out during my ordeal that some of the very same people on the committee were guilty of this very same violation, I was astonished. I am talking about several hundred million of dollars that members of the S.C. Senate alone have received through public contracts.”
Ford's e-mail references his troubles with the S.C. Senate Ethics Committee, a panel made up of his former senate colleagues. This spring they held hearings into his conduct and accused him of misusing campaign funds
. The panel's investigations into his campaign spending forced him from office. Those findings have been sent to the attorney general.
Ford's e-mail closes with this threat:
“I am calling for every public elected official to stop this practice, if not; in the next few weeks and months their names will be exposed. If they are guilty of this type of abuse they should resign and give up their office. I am going to make sure that the public is no longer tolerant of this kind of conduct. The decision is yours.”
Horry County Republican Sen. Luke Rankin, who chairs the Senate Ethics Committee, said he hadn't seen Ford's e-mail or heard about his intentions when contacted about it today.
“It doesn't matter,” Rankin said about the content of the e-mail, adding that he wouldn't comment on it regardless.
Ford says he's known about lawmakers using their public office for personal gain in South Carolina for years. But, he says, he didn't know what to do with the intel. Now that he's out of office, the ex-senator has a lot of free time on his hands, he says. Ford didn't get specific with his claims. But he mentioned how a businessman with a concrete company might have a difficult time competing against others in the concrete business if one of them is a lawmaker. In April, The Nerve, an investigative journalism arm of the Columbia-based limited-government South Carolina Policy Council, reported
about the ties of Florence GOP Sen. Hugh Leatherman to the concrete business
and the millions its raked in from state funding.
“As elected officials you cannot use your public position to get public funds,” Ford says. “You can't do that ... I'm going to start calling names."