Raleigh, N.C. — A recent state audit of Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger's campaign account turned up donations above the state's per-person limits.
The campaign ponied up $5,500 to make good with the State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement after an inquiry that looked at records back to 2009. At least another $14,200 could have been forfeited, but the problem donations fell outside the state's required period for records retention, according to the audit letter.
Berger's finance director, Peter Barnes, said in an email that the forfeiture amount is a fairly common one, given the hundreds of committees regulated by the board of elections and the $4.5 million in Berger campaign receipts audited in this case.
"We were more than willing to comply with every one of the board's requests – they even complimented how thorough and detailed our response was – and we're pleased they closed the audit," Barnes said via email.
In addition to campaign donations that exceeded per-person or per-entity maximums set out in state law, auditors looked at donations that appeared to come during legislative sessions and from entities forbidden from donating during those sessions. The Berger campaign reached back into its records to show those donations were either made at fundraisers just before session or mailed prior to the session's start.
The audit also questioned $1,500 a month the Berger campaign pays to co-occupy his law office in Eden. The campaign responded that the figure also covers a shared secretary, telephone costs and utilities. It provided real estate appraisals from the surrounding area to make its case that the rent is appropriate.
In addition to the monthly fee the campaign pays Berger's law firm, the campaign pays $1,500 a month to YPD Properties, an LLC owned by the senator. This is a townhouse lease in Raleigh, providing Berger, R-Rockingham, a place to stay during session and when political duties bring him to Raleigh, Barnes said.
This is common practice, he said, cleared ahead of time by the board of elections.