UPDATED: The state board of elections is investigating Pat McCrory’s 2008 bid for governor more than 18 months after the state Democratic Party filed two complaints alleging violations of campaign finance laws. (
Gary Bartlett, executive director of the elections board, cautioned that the inquiry so far is not implicating McCrory’s campaign in any wrongdoing, saying “nothing thus far (has) given us any pause.”
McCrory’s campaign sent a letter to state elections officials Friday questioning the timing of the investigation, given that the original complaints were filed in April 2010 and no action was taken until Oct. 31 this year.
“It’s a sad and desperate attempt to muddy the political waters and a waste of taxpayers’ money,” said campaign spokesman Brian Nick who called the complaints “frivolous and without merit.”
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The investigation into McCrory began as speculation swirled as Gov. Bev Perdue’s previous campaign faced an investigation involving unreported flights from donors and other campaign finance violations. A Wake County prosecutor indicted three Perdue associates earlier this week on criminal charges related to their work on the governor’s campaign.
Bartlett, a Democrat, said his office is looking into the McCrory complaint now because he wanted it complete before candidate filing for the governor’s race starts in early 2012. McCrory is the likely Republican Party nominee.
“We want to get it over with so it doesn’t look like ... it’s following up on the Perdue thing because it’s not,” Bartlett said.
The April 2010 complaints were filed by Andrew Whalen, a Democratic operative who at the time served as executive director for the state Democratic Party. The timing of the complaints themselves also raises questions, coming about 18 months after Perdue won the 2008 campaign but amid former Democratic Gov. Mike Easley’s legal troubles.
In the first complaint, filed April 29, 2010, Whalen alleges that McCrory’s 2008 campaign and the Republican Governor’s Association illegally coordinated fundraising and expenditure efforts. The detailed filing suggested McCrory campaign manager Richard Hudson, who is now running for Congress, and his now-wife, Renee Howell, worked to raise money for the RGA’s political action committee.
State law mandates that a candidate’s campaign cannot coordinate activities with an independent political group, which can raise unlimited sums.
Hudson formally joined the McCrory campaign in May 2008, a month after the RGA committee was formed. But the complaint linked about a dozen of the RGA committee’s first donors – none of whom had ever contributed to a North Carolina political race – to Hudson and his wife through their connections in Washington, where they worked for congressmen.
In the second complaint, filed April 30, 2010, Whalen asserts that McCrory’s 2008 campaign bundled contributions from employees at a number of corporations. Bundling is not illegal – and is widely practiced in politics – but the law says donors cannot give money in the name of another person. Whalen asked the elections board to investigate to determine whether this occurred.
Reached Friday, Whalen said he is disappointed it took so long for them to investigate. But he still hopes the elections board “does its due diligence and conducts an actual investigation. The results will speak for themselves.”
Bartlett said the complaint “has always been on our list of things to do” but other complaints took precedent because they were more serious.
He expects investigators will complete the inquiry in the next couple weeks and present the findings to the State Board of Elections at its Dec. 21 meeting.
As a part of the investigation, McCrory contributors are being asked to sign affidavits stating that the contributions did not come from other sources – a move that the McCrory campaign worries will hurt fundraising efforts.
“Who would want to contribute to a campaign if he or she will be investigated, questioned and asked to sign sworn statements simply upon a frivolous and highly partisan complaint filed with the SBOE?” wrote McCrory political consultant Jack Hawke in the letter sent to Bartlett. “We would encourage you to reconsider this method of investigation in the future absent some evidence beyond mere circumstance that a violation has occurred?”
The McCrory campaign also mocked the elections board for not fully investigating the Perdue campaign.
“In light of the recent indictments, we can understand the state board’s embarrassment having passed on an opportunity to hold hearings and fully investigate the Perdue committee and its associates,” Hawke wrote. “But the SBOE should be cautious that it does not overreact.”
McCrory Committee Letter.pdf