Local Politics

Perdue donor pleads guilty to illegal campaign contributions

Posted May 4, 2010

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— A Wilmington businessman pleaded guilty Tuesday to making $176,000 in illegal contributions to the campaigns of Gov. Beverly Perdue and other Democrats.

Rusty Carter pleaded guilty to three misdemeanor charges of making illegal contributions through Atlantic Corp., a packaging company that he owns. He was sentenced to 30 days in jail, which was suspended to two years on probation, and was fined $5,000. He also is barred from contributing to political campaigns for two years.

Campaign finance Campaigns surrender illegal donations to state

Carter admitted that he gave his employees bonuses, and they used a portion of the money to donate to campaigns between 2004 and last December. Prosecutors said $64,000 was given to Perdue's campaign, while Senate President Pro Tempore Marc Basnight received $84,000 and Sen. Julia Boseman, D-New Hanover, got $28,000.

State law prohibits one person making a campaign contribution under someone else's name. It also bars corporations from making donations to candidates.

Defense attorney David Long said Carter didn't know the contributions were illegal until Bob Hall, executive director of campaign watchdog group Democracy North Carolina, and State Republican Party Chairman Tom Fetzer recently complained about Carter's actions to the State Board of Elections.

"He knew you could not make corporate contributions ... (but) he thought this was the way it was done," Long said. "Today, he realizes what he did was inappropriate."

Long said Carter also made $25,000 to $30,000 in illegal donations to the campaign of former Gov. Mike Easley and other candidates. Those cases weren't prosecuted because the statute of limitations had expired on the charges, he said.

Political watchdog Joe Sinsheimer said he feels Carter got off easy, but added, "Anytime someone pleads guilty, it's a sign the system does work."

Assistant New Hanover County District Attorney Tom Old said the law Carter violated is a misdemeanor offense, so the penalty was appropriate.

"A felony has a whole lot more bearing on, I think, people's conduct, particularly sophisticated people of wealth," Old said.

He said he doesn't believe any of the campaigns were aware the funds given to them were raised illegally.

Last month, Perdue's campaign surrendered $48,000 in donations from 12 Atlantic Corp. employees to her 2008 gubernatorial campaign to the elections board. Campaign treasurer Oscar Harris said at the time that the donations were discovered during an ongoing audit of campaign finances, and officials decided to give up the money even though they weren't sure they were illegal.

Marc Farinella, a spokesman for Perdue's campaign, said Tuesday that the campaign would send the remaining $16,000 to elections officials on Wednesday.

Shortly after Carter pleaded guilty, Basnight sent a check for $84,000 to the elections board to divest his campaign of the illegal donations.

"My campaign has always fully complied with our elections laws, and it has always been my expectation (and hopefully, the expectation of every candidate for office) that anyone who contributes to my campaign does so transparently, legally, and in good faith," Basnight wrote in a letter to Gary Bartlett, the executive director of the elections board.

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  • tatermommy52 May 5, 2010

    These Dems always act so dumb when caught, and they said Bush was dense. I miss ole' George, at least we were safe.

  • GlobalHoax May 5, 2010

    Wow. Basnight finally got caught with his hand in the cookie jar! He's usually much slicker than that.

    The Democrats in this state have been doing it for so long that they don't even see it as wrong any more.

  • anti-Hans May 5, 2010

    I see nothing wrong with this. Just because it was illegal, what is the big deal? We allow illegal stuff all the time.

  • ratherbnnc May 5, 2010

    Dont blame them..Besides, where were all those angry Republicans and Tea Partiers yesterday who wanted to clean Democratic House? I guess you were all at home asleep? Typical! All talk and less action.

  • ratherbnnc May 5, 2010

    Can anyone tell me what the deal is with Basnight? Did he have a stroke some time back or has he always talked the way he does?
    TakeThisYou

    Not sure what you mean by has he always talked the way he does? He does have a brain disorder which effects his speach.
    If you are talking about his accent, he is a Dare County native and has the Old English brogue if you will.

  • jonmac May 5, 2010

    TakeThisYou, to answer your question about Basnight, he does suffer from some type of degenerative brain disorder that does cause slurred speech and dizzyness. Search WRAL and there should be an old article about it.

  • ncguy May 5, 2010

    These Dems take the cake...

  • tjdebord May 5, 2010

    Hey,defense attorney David Long, what Rusty did was NOT inappropriate. It was illegal!

  • Garnerwolf1 May 5, 2010

    I find the constant Perdue bashing ironic. SOMEBODY voted her in. Perhaps some of those doing the bashing? If so, YOU are to blame as much as she is - you put her in office, and at least should have known what you were getting. (My conscience is clean - I knew better and voted for the other guy).

  • pwilliamson53 May 5, 2010

    Keep digging, the more you dig the more is going to come out agains Perdue. She is running scared and dishing out bucks each time they find something to make good on what she knew was illegal. Perdue is not innocent. Among the Easley's, add Perdue cause she is as guilty as all the others that are facing the music now. Perdue face the facts, your constitional rights as governor allowed you to do a lot of things, but not hide $$$$$'s illegally or to cover up your guilt.

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