Local Politics

Easley's legal defense tab tops $200,000

Posted July 31, 2009 4:01 p.m. EDT
Updated July 31, 2009 4:31 p.m. EDT

— Former Gov. Mike Easley's campaign committee has spent $222,728 on lawyers in recent months to handle questions about his campaign finances, a spokesman said Friday.

The Mike Easley Committee reported to the State Board of Elections on Friday that it spent $263,924 overall between Jan. 1 and June 30, Easley spokesman Ace Smith said in a statement.

"The legal service provided included compliance services, research and reporting and the gathering and assembly of information from past campaigns," John Wallace, an attorney representing the campaign committee, said in the statement. "We have been providing information to move this matter forward and are intent on coming to a quick resolution."

The campaign recently paid $2,720 to the State Board of Elections to make up for improper contributions during the 2000 and 2004 campaigns. Three of the contributions exceeded the $4,000 limit for individual contributions, and campaign officials couldn't determine the source of a fourth contribution.

The North Carolina Democratic Party paid the elections board $24,086 to resolve questions about seven contributions in the 2004 campaign, including several flights on private airplanes for Easley that have become the subject of a federal grand jury investigation.

The grand jury subpoenaed Easley's travel records and has spoken to the Highway Patrol officer who headed his security detail.

The Board of Elections staff also has been reviewing Easley's campaign finance and travel records but hasn't conducted a public hearing on the matter.

The in-kind contributions were made to the Democratic Party, but it's illegal to contribute to a political party with the intent to benefit a particular candidate.

In addition to Easley's travel, the grand jury also has examined vehicles car dealers provided to him and his family, his purchase of a waterfront lot in Carteret County at a below-market price, the sale of a Southport marina to a group that included some political contributors and a high-paying job his wife landed at North Carolina State University.

The campaign committee reported having $428,000 in cash at the end of 2008.