Raleigh, N.C. — Attorney General Roy Cooper leveled an out-of-date but not completely unfounded claim during Tuesday night's WRAL News debate that Gov. Pat McCrory was facing a pay-for-play investigation.
"If he wants to talk about political contributions, he had a contributor who said he wanted something for his contribution in return. Gov. McCrory gave him a private prison contract over the objections of his staff," Cooper said. "If you want to talk about political contributions, governor, you're the one who now has an FBI criminal investigation."
McCrory retorted, "As attorney general, you should resign right now for saying that. That is absolutely not true. There is no FBI investigation."
While there may not be a current investigation, McCrory's own comments after the debate make clear there was some sort of inquiry.
Cooper was referencing a 2015 story that involved how the state came to extend a contract for The Keith Corp. to provide prison maintenance for the state. Records from that time show that staff members were reluctant to grant that extension. Notes from a meeting in which McCrory was involved said that Graeme Keith Sr., the company's chairman and a McCrory donor, made a comment that he should "get something in return" for that political support.
McCrory has denied he heard Keith's comment and has long downplayed the story.
Asked after the debate how he knew there was no FBI investigation, McCrory said, "I've been told that." Pressed as to who told him, McCrory said, "The FBI. How's that?"
Asked another follow-up question about whether he spoke to the FBI about the matter, McCrory said, "Yes, I have and clarified all the issues, and everything's fine."
A spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney in North Carolina's Western District confirmed that whatever investigation there had been was closed in February.
“Western District of North Carolina U.S. Attorney Jill Westmoreland Rose previously advised Gov. Pat McCrory’s attorney that all matters related to the Governor’s alleged involvement with state prison contracts have been closed by this Office with no action against the Governor," said Lia Bantavani, a spokesman for the office.
This appears to be the first time either McCrory or the U.S. attorney has confirmed the matter has been formally closed.