Raleigh, N.C. — Wake County's district attorney has asked the State Bureau of Investigation to look into whether cash from sweepstakes businesses illegally flowed to a number of North Carolina campaigns, including Gov. Pat McCrory's.
The State Board of Elections took a first look at donations connected with Chase E. Burns and his company, IIT, which provides the software behind video sweepstakes systems that are meant to mimic gambling. Policymakers in North Carolina have repeatedly acted to outlaw sweepstakes, which came into vogue after video poker machines were outlawed.
In 2012, Burns and other sweepstakes operators were trying to convince top policymakers to regulate and tax the industry, which has continued to operate in a legal gray area. Burns alone made $274,500 in donations to North Carolina candidates, Democrats and Republicans, making him by far one of the biggest donors to political campaigns and causes during the 2011-12 cycle. McCrory received $70,000 in contributions from Burns and others.
During a July hearing, elections officials said they could find no explicit evidence of wrongdoing. In particular, they could not prove that the donations to political campaigns came from corporations, something that is illegal under North Carolina law.
"While we all may have some pause about the source of funds and campaign finance policy, there's not a violation of the law as it reads today," elections board Chairman Josh Howard said at the time.
At the same time, Howard suggested that other law enforcement agencies might want to take up the investigation, pointing out that the board doesn't have the power to compel testimony from those unwilling to talk.
"I have asked the SBI to conduct an investigation into contributions made by Mr. Burns during the 2012 election cycle and into ancillary matters that came to the attention of the Board of Elections during its investigation," Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman said in an email Tuesday.
Freeman is a Democrat. McCrory is a Republican who faces re-election in 2016.
Shannon O'Toole, a spokeswoman with the SBI, confirmed her agency had received that request and was investigating.
According to the Associated Press, both McCrory's official spokesman and his campaign declined to comment.