Local Politics

Witnesses: Wright Took Nonprofit Money, Didn't Report Contributions

Posted March 5, 2008

— Two witnesses told a legislative panel Wednesday that state Rep. Thomas Wright pocketed corporate donations to a foundation he directs and failed to report numerous campaign contributions.

The testimony came in the third day of hearings into ethical misconduct allegations against Wright, D-New Hanover. He is accused of mishandling about $350,000 in campaign contributions, loans and charitable donations.

State Bureau of Investigation Agent Johnnie Umphlet said he interviewed Wright twice about the New Hanover Community Health Foundation. Wright admitted depositing checks to the foundation from AT&T and drug maker Astra Zeneca into his personal account, Umphlet said.

Wright described the moves as payments for his work to get the foundation going, Umphlet said. "He had put in a lot of work and sweat equity to get the foundation started," he testified.

The New Hanover County lawmaker also solicited a donation from Anheuser-Busch for the foundation, Umphlet said. The three corporate donations totaled about $8,900.

Kim Strach, deputy director of the State Board of Elections, testified that her office began examining Wright's campaign and personal bank accounts a year ago after a political watchdog questioned Wright's reporting of contributions from a company seeking to open a landfill near Wilmington.

The elections board decided to hold a hearing on Wright's finances "when we saw the magnitude of expenditures not disclosed," Strach said. "In my time at the state board, I've never audited a (campaign) committee that had this amount of non-disclosure."

Strach's staff created a spreadsheet at the request of Wake County prosecutors and determined Wright failed to disclose $185,000 in campaign contributions, she said.

"In my mind, I could not believe it was a mistake," she said, noting Wright deposited many of the campaign checks himself. "It was not an error, not a mistake."

The legislative committee could recommend to the full House that Wright be censured or expelled. The General Assembly hasn't removed a lawmaker from office since the 1880s.

Wright, who also faces criminal charges stemming from the same allegations, has denied any wrongdoing. His attorney has said Wright is guilty of nothing more than sloppy bookkeeping and has argued that the legislator is being persecuted because he is black.


This story is closed for comments.

Oldest First
View all
  • miketroll3572 Mar 6, 2008

    Yruatwit: Ya can't hit the nail on the head any better than that. Down, Down, Down, Write is going down......

  • yruatwit Mar 6, 2008

    I will never understand the African American community's complacency and lack of vocal outrage at this kind of criminal behavior. This lack of chastisement indicates approval, if not outright encouragement, of the act. Many African American leaders continuously harp on being respected, being treated equally, having the same opportunities, being enfranchised, and on, and on, but their actions (or lack thereof) diametrically oppose their vocal goals and desires. I think many in the African American community look upon the "race card" as an invaluable crutch to lean upon. "As long as it continues to be available, I will not have to stand upon my own two legs." But, if your training and environmental exposure from birth has been revolving around that mindset, I guess personal responsibility is quite a scary concept.

  • Sidekick Mar 6, 2008

    x - What exactly do they do? Nothing. Who runs it and who benefits from it? Wright and others like him. Who audits their income and expenditures? No one. Remember the Fayteville state rep. that had a part-time position with a 'foundation' that paid herself over $100,000.00 in salary? And they all claim to be 'reverends' to get tax exemptions.

  • Paladin2 Mar 6, 2008

    tomm175 -
    Would you trust the Right Reverend Wright with your money?

  • Paladin2 Mar 6, 2008

    tomm175 -
    Reverend Congressman Wright deposited the donations straight into his personal account. That is called "stealing". He is an arrogant corrupt unrepentant thief hiding behind his mail order "Reverend" title and his race. And his constituents would re-elect him again because he is one of them and they see it as only stealing from the man - corporations, IRS, etc. It's a "we" verses "the man" mentality for many.

  • Karmageddon Mar 6, 2008

    Well, it's seems that two wrongs do make a Wright

  • Sandollar Mar 5, 2008

    Wright is self-ordained. He's not an example of my God. Him professing to be a Reverend makes his claims even more absurd. He's even more a scum bag. Watch it if he has a church that follows his lead.
    Yep, he's crazy. Just like most crooks, he's crazy as a fox. Don't tell him about insanity pleas. He'll be in a mental hospital watching TV. Put him in prison with Black.

  • x Mar 5, 2008

    Can anybody tell me about the non profit foundation? What exactly do they do? Who runs it and who benefits from it? Who audits their income and expenditures?

  • whatusay Mar 5, 2008

    Again, how many "POOR" politicians have you ever seen...why? They create the loop holes and get rich at the tax payers expense. When donations are made to a NON-PROFIT

  • GWALLY Mar 5, 2008

    reelhillbilly,....I had not thought of the title of "Rev" as being a tax advantage....hmmmmmmmm....now I see the light !!!!!!! That title along with a nonprofit money laundering/theft org. would certainly keep the taxes down.....were can one "buy" one of these titles??? (at a nonprofit store I suppose) !!!

    Also IF (and that is a BIG IF) he were to go to jail he would be beside Jim Black (who is white by the way) so the race bs-card could not be played.....!!!!!