Local Politics

Perdue calls for tougher campaign finance rules

Posted May 5, 2010 4:04 p.m. EDT
Updated May 5, 2010 4:54 p.m. EDT

— Gov. Beverly Perdue on Wednesday called for stiffer sanctions on campaign finance violations, one day after a major fundraiser pleaded guilty to making illegal contributions to her campaign.

Wilmington businessman Rusty Carter pleaded guilty to three misdemeanors for funneling $176,000 in contributions through employees at Atlantic Corp., a packaging company that he owns. Perdue's campaign received $64,000, Senate leader Marc Basnight's campaign received $84,000 and Sen. Julia Boseman's campaign received $28,000.

Carter gave the employees bonuses, with the understanding that some of the money would go to the campaigns.

State law prohibits one person making a campaign contribution under someone else's name. It also bars corporations from making donations to candidates.

Perdue didn't know the contributions were illegal, spokeswoman Chrissy Pearson said, but she believes such violations of campaign finance laws should be felonies, not misdemeanors, to deter similar acts in the future. Pearson said the governor also would like to see an extra line added to campaign contribution forms where donors attest that they are giving their own money.

Such a change could open violators up to perjury charges as well.

Basnight agreed that campaign finance violations should be felonies under state law, and he said that the General Assembly would consider such changes when it reconvenes next week.

House Speaker Joe Hackney said the issue should go before a legislative panel that is studying changes to campaign laws. He declined to comment on whether campaign finance violations should become felonies, saying he was reserving judgment.

Carter was sentenced to 30 days in jail, which was suspended to two years on probation, and was fined $5,000. He also is barred from contributing to political campaigns for two years.

His attorney, David Long, said he also made $25,000 to $30,000 in illegal donations to the campaign of former Gov. Mike Easley and to other candidates. Those cases weren't prosecuted because the statute of limitations had expired on the charges, Long said.

Perdue's campaign already forfeited $48,000 to the State Board of Elections to offset some of the Atlantic Corp. employee donations. A campaign spokesman said a check for the remainder would be turned over to elections officials Wednesday.

Basnight's campaign wrote an $84,000 check to elections officials Tuesday.