Local Politics

Perdue campaign reports more flights

Posted December 10, 2009 11:04 a.m. EST
Updated December 10, 2009 6:54 p.m. EST

— Gov. Beverly Perdue's campaign committee has reported another six flights aboard private aircraft as far back as 2004, according to information filed recently with the State Board of Elections.

Raleigh attorney Terence McEnally III provided four flights between June 2004 and March 2006, for a total of $1,348. Mary Brinn, an executive with a New Bern glass company, provided a May 2006 flight worth $355, and Stubbs & Perdue, the law firm of Perdue's former husband, provided a December 2006 flight worth $475.

The campaign recently paid Stubbs & Perdue for its flight, and it treated the others as in-kind contributions.

The move follows reimbursements Perdue made in July for 17 flights, totaling more than $18,700.

Campaign treasurer Oscar Harris said in a Nov. 17 letter to the State Board of Elections that campaign officials have been auditing Perdue's campaign finances after the campaign shifted to a new software program. The officials came across the previously unreported flights in the process, he said.

Perdue said Thursday that her campaign deserves credit for finding the errors internally and reporting them.

"I feel very comfortable that we once again have moved to ensure that every T is crossed and I is dotted. It's what needs to happen if we're going to have total transparency," she said.

Political watchdog Joe Sinsheimer said there's no excuse for not reporting campaign flights for several years.

"If the governor wants to live up to her own words about transparency and accountability, she's going to have to start with her campaign and do a better job," said Sinsheimer, whose campaign finance complaints sparked investigations against former House Speaker Jim Black and former state Rep. Thomas Wright.

Tom Fetzer, chairman of the state Republican Party, also criticized Perdue for the tardy reporting.

“While Gov. Perdue casts herself as a reformer, she continues to admit to illegal campaign behavior," Fetzer said in a statement. "Apparently, the governor thinks she can break campaign finance laws prior to an election and then clean up the mess after she is in office.”

Following an October hearing into alleged campaign finance violations by former Gov. Mike Easley, the elections board ordered Easley's campaign to forfeit $60,000 for plane trips he took on private planes that were never noted on campaign finance reports. A $40,000 fine was levied against the campaign committee to pay for the cost of the state investigation into the matter.

The board also turned its findings over to prosecutors to determine whether Easley should face any criminal charges in the case. A decision is expected by February.

Campaign laws forbid corporate donations to candidates and limit individual contributions to $4,000 per election cycle. The value of the flights reported by Perdue's campaign didn't put individuals over the limit when combined with other donations, however.

Sinsheimer said the elections board must send a stronger message on campaign finance problems.

"If you report the problems before the press gets a hold of them, we're not going to take action," he said. "I think that's the mentality that needs to change. We've seen too many problems, and quite frankly, the campaign finance system in this state is under attack."