Raleigh, N.C. — Sen. Fletcher Hartsell, R-Cabarrus, the longest serving member of the North Carolina Senate, was indicted by a Wake County grand jury Tuesday on three felony counts of filing false campaign reports.
The indictment alleges that, from 2010 to 2013, Hartsell used campaign donations to pay for upkeep and maintenance of his property as well as other goods and services through his law firm and personal credit cards.
State elections officials had been investigating Hartsell for three years over multiple questionable expenditures, including more than $600 in shoe repairs, three speeding tickets, magazine subscriptions and tens of thousands of dollars in credit card expenses. Allegations of improper expenditures against the 13-term senator were turned over to state prosecutors in Wake and Cabarrus counties in early June.
State Board of Elections Director Kim Westbrook Strach has attributed the state's probe to a report from The News & Observer that raised questions about credit card payments listed on Hartsell's campaign finance reports.
Calls Tuesday afternoon to Hartsell's office and to his attorney, Wade Smith, were not immediately returned.
Although state lawmakers can spend campaign money on expenses related to running for and holding office and even charitable contributions, campaign finance laws effective since 2006 ban spending on personal expenses.
Hartsell's reports, along with those of every other lawmaker, should have been audited by the state board after each election cycle, but Strach said the board's strained resources makes that all but impossible.
In Hartsell's case, his campaign finance reports had never been audited, requiring elections board officials to review 24 years of reports during the course of the investigation.