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Donor indicted in probe of Perdue campaign flights

Posted February 8, 2011

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— A Wake County grand jury on Tuesday indicted a political contributor in connection with a state investigation into Gov. Beverly Perdue's campaign finances.

Robert Lee Caldwell of Morganton was charged with one count of felony obstruction of justice.

The indictment alleges that Caldwell obtained a campaign donation from a man named James Fleming and then reimbursed Fleming with money from an unidentified source. Caldwell then used Fleming's check to pay Profile Aviation to fly Perdue to a campaign stop, according to the indictment.

Caldwell told Perdue's campaign committee that the plane trip was an in-kind donation from Fleming, knowing that was false, the indictment states. The campaign then included that incorrect information in its campaign finance filings.

Perdue's office referred all questions to campaign spokesman Marc Farinella, who said in a statement that the campaign was in the dark about the illegal contribution.

"We do not condone any activity that violates campaign finance laws, and we believe strongly that North Carolinians are entitled to truthful and accurate reporting of campaign contributions," Farinella said. "We are disappointed by the activity described in the indictment, and we strongly urge all contributors to all campaigns to abide by the requirements of the law.”

Former Gov. Mike Easley appointed Caldwell to the Board of Trustees of Western Piedmont Community College in 2002 and again in 2006, and Perdue reappointed him last year.

College officials declined to comment.

The indictment marks the first criminal case in a state investigation into Perdue's campaign flights.

The State Board of Elections fined the governor's campaign $30,000 last August for not reporting dozens of campaign flights aboard donors' planes during the 2004 and 2008 elections until late 2009.

Wake County District Attorney Colon Willoughby reviewed the information from the elections board's investigation and last fall asked the State Bureau of Investigation to look into the matter further to help him determine whether any criminal charges were warranted.

Willoughby said Tuesday that nothing has been brought up in the investigation that implicates Perdue in any wrongdoing. The investigation is ongoing, he said.

"I would not be surprised to see more charges," Willoughby said.

Federal investigators also are looking into Perdue's campaign finances.

According to a recent campaign filing, Perdue has spent $140,000 since last July to pay for lawyers to represent her in the elections board case. She also recently retained high-profile defense attorneys Joe Cheshire and Wade Smith.

75 Comments

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  • carroln Feb 10, 2011

    Why wasnt purdue put in the same category as the last governor ? took everything he had and his right to practice law. Mike easley is no different than purdue. She should be charged and removed from office .

  • JoCoLoco Feb 9, 2011

    For those actually concerned with the facts: the indictment is for obstruction of justice because the staffer lied to investigators. The indictment is not for the donation/flight itself. The campaign has already been fined for violating flight reporting rules, just as the law says they should.

    And before the partisan hacks continue, please be aware that both the McCrory(R) and Munger(L) campaigns also failed to properly report flights.

    But by all means, lets continue pointing partisan fingers instead of fixing a rule which is clearly problematic.
    clayt85
    February 9, 2011 12:16 p.m.

    Oh yeah, it's the rule that's the problem. Get real!

  • Objective Scientist Feb 9, 2011

    Two governors, back to back, involved in this type of investigation. One already pleaded "guilty" to something fairly minor in return for a "sweet-heart" deal that likely costs him very little, if any, money - the greatest cost being his "reputation". Now the sitting governor... is she guilty? Who knows? Nevertheless, this citizen and voter is thinking enough is enough!!! It seems that for many the risk of being on the wrong side of campaign finance laws is more than offset by the "prize" of high political office. Anyone who truly "thinks/sees it that way" should face the wrath of all citizens. We read/hear in the news about such high levels of corruption in places like Iraq and Afghanistan. Do we "have room to talk"?

  • Mugu Feb 9, 2011

    When is Cameron McRae gonna be indicted? He did the same thing with Easley flying him around in a Tands jet. Tands owns a bunch of Bojangle's franchises.

    Buy a boberry biscuit and sponsor employee oppression and political corruption.

  • clayt85 Feb 9, 2011

    For those actually concerned with the facts: the indictment is for obstruction of justice because the staffer lied to investigators. The indictment is not for the donation/flight itself. The campaign has already been fined for violating flight reporting rules, just as the law says they should.

    And before the partisan hacks continue, please be aware that both the McCrory(R) and Munger(L) campaigns also failed to properly report flights.

    But by all means, lets continue pointing partisan fingers instead of fixing a rule which is clearly problematic.

  • JoCoLoco Feb 9, 2011

    I find it hard to believe that anyone could get on a plane(any plane) and not know "how is this being paid for?".

  • haleibc Feb 9, 2011

    So its illegal to donate illegal money, but its not illegal to take it. Where are bev,s indictments?

  • heavye Feb 9, 2011

    Wonder where she got the $140,000 from.....maybe her rainy day fund. My guess would be the 4 state employees saleries that are about to get layed off. I say start the layoffs at the top of the food chain...

  • lost in translation Feb 9, 2011

    ...tick tock.....tick tock......

  • gunny462 Feb 9, 2011

    "But, but, but... the angry old man on the radio who tells me what to think said that we are not allowed to believe anything other than what we've been fed on Faux News, since everything else is that dreaded "liberal media". Or does that only apply when right wingers do bad things?"

    And since you added nothing to the post? I also notice that this seems to be just a 'canned' response from you on everything so...

    Bev's already shown that she can get out of everything i.e free flights etc so why bother? This is just another lil ol hiccup in her bid for her next election right?

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