The sweepstakes company owner caught in an illegal gambling ring gave more than $235,000 to North Carolina political candidates and parties in 2012, ranking as the largest individual donor to legislative contenders, according to a new analysis of state campaign finance records.
The total reported by Democracy North Carolina, a Raleigh-based elections watchdog group, is at least $60,000 more than previously known. Not all legislative candidates are required to file electronic campaign finance data, but Democracy North Carolina scoured the paper forms to find obscured contributions from Burns and his wife.
The lawmakers who received the most money, not surprisingly, were the legislative leadership: Senate leader Phil Berger received $8,000 and House Speaker Thom Tillis took $6,500. The report identified 63 lawmakers who accepted campaign checks, including 21 who received the maximum $4,000 per race (19 Republicans and two Democrats).
One nexus of the donations appears to be Moore & Van Allen, the law firm that lobbied for Burns' company, International Internet Technologies, and formerly employed Gov. Pat McCrory. The Republican governor received $8,000 from Burns and his wife (which he later donated to charity) but said he didn't know Burns.
Democracy North Carolina found that Republican Sen. Brent Jackson's report listed Burns as a Moore & Van Allen attorney. Democratic state Rep. Ellmer Floyd added the name of Moore & Van Allen lobbyist Tommy Sevier and his phone number to the report of Burns' donation. Burns' occupation and employer read: "director of public affairs, Moore & Van Allen" -- which is Sevier's job title, the group reported. Democratic Rep. Garland Pierce, the head of the Legislative Black Caucus, likewise listed Sevier's office address and phone number with Burns' donation.
Moore & Van Allen dropped Burns' company as a client after his arrest. State law prohibits lobbyists from bundling checks from many donors and giving them to a political candidate, but lobbyists can deliver checks from clients. Lobbyists themselves are not allowed to donate. Lawmakers are charged with disclosing donations correctly.
“The number of suspicious donations and pattern of incorrect disclosure deserve a clear and complete explanation from Moore & Van Allen and Mr. Burns,” Hall said in a statement.
House Republicans and Democrats have pledged to give their donations to charity. Senate Republicans and Democrats won't say whether they will do the same.