Local Politics

Ex-N.C. senator pays $150K for campaign finance violations

Posted December 9, 2010

— Former state Sen. Fred Hobbs has paid a $150,000 fine to the State Board of Elections for violating campaign finance laws, the board announced on Thursday. 

The board was investigating allegations that the Democratic senator bankrolled political contributions by his employees to get around donation limits.

State law prohibits corporations from donating to political campaigns, and it caps individual contributions at $4,000 per candidate in any election cycle.

An investigator for the elections board found $148,000 in company funds from Hobbs' Southern Pines engineering firm, Hobbs, Upchurch and Associates, was used to make campaign donations.

"I believe this individual understood what he was doing," State Board of Elections Chair Larry Leake said.

Hobbs admitted to funneling money through his company over the past 11 years to various candidates, including $109,000 to Senate President Pro Tempore Marc Basnight, $13,000 to former Gov. Mike Easley, $20,000 to Gov. Beverly Perdue and $6,000 to former Lt. Governor Dennis Wicker. 

Board members say they found no reason to believe the campaigns knew the money was illegal.

Perdue campaign spokesman Marc Farinella said Hobbs' money will be relinquished to the state elections board once it confirms the amount illegally donated was $20,000.

Basnight spokesman Schorr Johnson said the Dare County Democrat, who will lose the Senate's top post when Republicans take control of the chamber next month, also will give money donated by Hobbs to the elections board.

"Sen. Basnight would not want any contributions that were given to him inappropriately or illegally," Johnson said. "He, like all candidates, must assume that anything given to him is done so appropriately."

Easley's campaign committee earlier this year reported it is out of money, drained by legal bills in a criminal probe of unreported campaign flights and other alleged benefits enjoyed by the governor who left office nearly two years ago. Easley last month ended state and federal investigations by agreeing to a plea deal that included a felony conviction and a $1,000 fine for an improperly filed campaign finance report.

Wicker, who has been out of public office since 2001, moved to close the last of his campaign committees in September after giving the final $48,000 he had on hand to other candidates and campaign committees.

Hobbs still faces potential misdemeanor charges on donations to Perdue and Basnight, according to his attorney, Michael Weisel.

The elections board has already turned over its findings to Moore County District Attorney Maureen Krueger to determine whether criminal charges are warranted.

Hobbs did not attend the board's hearing on Thursday. Weisel presented the board with a check for the fine.

"He is remorseful and deeply regrets his actions, but does take responsibility and feels essentially the disgorgement, which is what the $150,000 represents, of all those campaign contributions is appropriate," Weisel said.

Campaign finance Ex-N.C. senator fined for campaign finance violations

The fine was the biggest ever imposed by the State Board of Elections. 

"This is a serious violation of the integrity of our election process. Somebody's trying to cheat and steal our democracy basically. It's a crime against our democracy," said Bob Hall, of the campaign finance watchdog group Democracy North Carolina.

Earlier this year, the elections board fined Wilmington businessman Rusty Carter $100,000 for his role in funneling illegal donations to the campaigns of Perdue, Basnight and former Sen. Julia Boseman. He also accepted responsibility for the violations in court.

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  • independentvoter3 Dec 10, 2010

    There may be some R's in the mix, but from what I've seen since about 1989 when I came here, it's running about 40, Love in favor of the "people who care about the common man". Gotta love Noth Calina! ginaosbo

    With the incumbent party's ability to redraw party lines in favor of their party, it's no surprise that Dem's dept getting re-elected. If Rep. can take the governor's seat in 2012 and maintain the majority, you'll see those district lines redrawn in their favor, which will lend to their long term hold on NC... providing of course that they can keep their constituents happy.
    And... on a side note... it's North Carolina. You know... the place you chose to call home because of lower taxes and cheaper real estate.

  • batcave Dec 9, 2010

    The board of election is bi partisan and appointed by the Govenor, with 5 members I am guessing easley appointed 3 dems so this false notion of repubs getting to slide is just that.

  • tsquaring Dec 9, 2010

    and the culture of corruption continues. vote democrat, criminals need work too.

  • RomneyRyan2012 Dec 9, 2010

    He's remorseful because HE GOT CAUGHT...disgorgement of funds? What the heck is that????

  • Gary_too Dec 9, 2010

    Looks like we shamed WRAL into updating the story to indicate that he was a Democrat.

  • ginaosbo Dec 9, 2010

    "No denying their crooked on both sides. Corruption is not limited to party affiliation. But, when you look back over RECENT history - Easley, Basnight, Black, and Perdue (to name a few within the past several years) - well, they all have one thing in common".... jgriffith3792

    Sorry, I missed your point. These three are also Democrats. But their deeds have gotten lost in the current mix of the "culture of corruption".

  • jgriffith3792 Dec 9, 2010

    With just a little looking, I also found these three which no one talks about. Ginaosbo

    No denying their crooked on both sides. Corruption is not limited to party affiliation. But, when you look back over RECENT history - Easley, Basnight, Black, and Perdue (to name a few within the past several years) - well, they all have one thing in common....

  • didormanii Dec 9, 2010

    I believe this is just the tip of an "Iceburg" yet to be exposed. There is a serious disregard for due process and an attitude of "We can do what We want, when We want, and To who We want to do it to" in Moore County North Carolina.

  • ginaosbo Dec 9, 2010

    Frank Ballance, 2004 US House of Rep, Money laundering,Mail Fraud, Felon

    Charlie Rose, 1994 Finance Disclosure Failure, Felon

    Garey Ballance, 2004 NC District Judge, Conspiracy Mail Fraud Money Laundering, Felon

    With just a little looking, I also found these three which no one talks about.

    There may be some R's in the mix, but from what I've seen since about 1989 when I came here, it's running about 40, Love in favor of the "people who care about the common man". Gotta love Noth Calina!

  • RB-1 Dec 9, 2010

    Well, at least we got more out of him than out of Weasley.

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