Things are not looking good for the Republican political environment in North Carolina (NC). It has hardly recovered from the ballot-fraud scheme that toppled the Republican representative candidate and caused the state to do a repeat congressional election. It appears that the Republican party tampered with paper ballots during the previous election. Then, there is the gerrymandering case before the NC Supreme Court. These political activities have found fertile ground in the Donald Trump political environment.
Chairman of the North Carolina Republican Party and a former congressman Robin Hayes was among several people indicted this week in connection with an alleged political bribery effort. The top North Carolina Republican donor and chair of an investment firm Greg Lindberg and two others were involved in the scheme.
A grand jury just indicted Hayes and Lindberg. Hayes, who was the GOP candidate for governor, was charged with five counts of bribery and conspiracy to commit wire fraud. They allegedly used $250,000 from campaign donations to try to bribe the state insurance commissioner Mike Causey.
Special agent in charge of the Charlotte, North Carolina FBI office, John Strong, released a statement, according to The New York Times:
‘These men crossed the line from fundraising to felonies when they devised a plan to use their connections to a political party to attempt to influence the operations and policies of the North Carolina Department of Insurance.’
Causey contacted the FBI and worked with them to record conversations used in the grand jury. The indicted men were trying to bribe Causey with a free-floating amount of money from $1 million to $2 million in political donations to buy regulatory assistance at his department.
In his news release, Assistant Attorney General for the Department of Justice’s criminal division in Washington, D.C.Brian Benczkowski, stated that the scheme was “brazen.”
Lindberg’s spokesperson sent an email to WRAL.com. In it, he wrote:
‘(Lindberg) is innocent of the charges in the indictment, and we look forward to demonstrating this when we get our day in court.’.
Apparently, Lindberg was trying to get Causey to fire or reassigned a deputy commissioner, because he believed that the deputy commissioner was over regulating some of the his hundreds of business affiliations. Lindberg offered to redirect $2 million in political donations to bribe him.
In the past few years, Lindberg donated almost $1.5 million to the state Republican party and over $5 million in total to various North Carolina campaigns. Then, the state Republican party gave $250,000 of those donations to Causey’s campaign. It seems, Lindberg was trying to circumvent the North Carolina political donations rules. In the state, people can give as much as they want to their party. However, it limits each individual campaign to a $5,400 donation.
The grand jury also indicted Lindberg consultant and vice president of Lindberg’s Eli Global business John Gray and chair of the Chatham County GOP John Palermo.
Causey went along with the scheme, so he could tape conversations for the FBI. He said he would trade regulators per Lindberg’s request. Then, Hayes sent an email to the state party’s treasurer to get a wire transfer to Causey’s campaign. Then, Causey signed the $250,000 bribe over to the U.S. Marshals Service in 2018.
Lindberg set up an “independent expenditure committee for Causey,” according to the indictment. Palermo was the treasurer for that committee, North Carolina Growth and Prosperity.
Two days after Lindberg donated $150,000 to “Public Official A’s political committee. That official called Causey to:
‘Explain that Lindberg was doing good things for North Carolina business.’
Lindberg was a top donor to a man Causey beat in 2016, former insurance commissioner Wayne Goodwin. He was also the top donor to Lt. Governor Dan Forest, after he donated $2 million to his campaign.
Lindberg also donated $500,000 to the North Carolina Democratic party. Goodwin chairs that party.
The indictment read that Gray told Causey that if that deputy commissioner was not fired:
‘…(he should) set it so that … she doesn’t breathe a word outside that office, or send a slip of paper outside that office, that is not reviewed first by John (Palermo).’
Hayes said that he was stepping down from his position as GOP chairman after this term due to his health.