Local Politics

Critics continue to question Perdue's campaign finances

Posted March 29, 2010 5:25 p.m. EDT
Updated March 29, 2010 6:52 p.m. EDT

— State Republican Party leaders are continuing to ask questions about Gov. Bev Perdue’s campaign finances.

Earlier this month, Perdue’s campaign forfeited $48,000 to elections officials, saying they suspected a Wilmington businessman paid his employees to make political contributions to Perdue.

State law prohibits people from making contributions in the name of another person.

State Republican Party leaders have clamored for months for an elections board investigation into Perdue's campaign finances similar to the one the board conducted last year on former Gov. Mike Easley.

GOP officials even paid for a billboard along Capital Boulevard in Raleigh calling for Perdue to be more forthcoming about her campaign finances. The billboard says, "Answer the Question, Bev."

State Republican Party Chairman Tom Fetzer said Monday that contributions from employees at nursing home giant Britthaven and its parent company, Hillco Ltd., and contributions from Pennsylvania-based Dilsheimer, a real estate company, are questionable.

Campaign finance records examined by WRAL Investigates show employees of Britthaven and Hillco gave more than $175,000 to state political candidates during the 2004 and 2008 elections, including donations to Perdue, Easley and Attorney General Roy Cooper.

Robert O. Hill Jr., the son of Hillco's and Britthaven's founder, accounted for $65,000 in political contributions, records show.

Britthaven President Randy Uzzell gave $4,000, the maximum allowable individual contribution, to three 2008 gubernatorial candidates – Perdue, former State Treasurer Richard Moore and former Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory.

"I hope that my involvement helps qualified candidates present a clear message to the voters, allowing an informed choice," Uzzell said earlier this month. "I take issue with the notion that making political contributions, even to people of different parties, equates to anything improper."

Dilsheimer operates two developments in North Carolina – The Villages at Turtle Creek in Surf City and The Villages at Goose Marsh in Brunswick County. Documents provided by the state GOP show the Dilsheimer family donated $25,000 to Perdue’s campaign.

State democrats say Fetzer is on a political fishing expedition.

“He’s just pulling names off of a report and saying we think people should investigate this, but he’s not offering any evidence as to what he thinks the problem may have been,” State Democratic Party executive director Andrew Whalen said.

Government reform advocate Jane Pinsky said the latest dispute shows a systemic failure.

"I can't fault the governor because it really is one of those things that happen routinely in politics, in the country and in North Carolina, but it really is time for a higher standard,” Pinsky said.

Perdue has announced campaign report adjustments four times since August. Three times she filed amended campaign reports to add a combined 31 previously unreported private flights valued at more than $25,000.

The elections board is currently looking at the campaign reports of all Democratic and Republican gubernatorial candidates from 2004 and 2008 to see whether anyone else took flights on donors' planes.