Local Politics

State elections officials review former senator's donations

Posted June 1, 2010 5:27 p.m. EDT
Updated June 2, 2010 2:55 p.m. EDT

— The State Board of Elections is looking into the record of campaign donations by employees of a Southern Pines engineering firm headed by a former state senator.

Employees of Hobbs Upchurch and Associates gave more than $70,000 over the past decade to Senate President Pro Tempore Marc Basnight. The company is headed by former Sen. Fred Hobbs and David Upchurch, both of whom also contributed to Basnight and other political campaigns.

Tom Fetzer, chairman of the North Carolina Republican Party, has raised questions about the contributions, saying the employee donations look suspicious.

Last month, Wilmington businessman Rusty Carter pleaded guilty to three misdemeanor charges of making illegal contributions through his employees. He was fined $5,000, placed on probation for a year and barred from making political donations for two years.

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

Basnight forfeited $84,000 he received from Carter's employees, and Gov. Beverly Perdue forfeited $64,000.

According to the company's website, Hobbs Upchurch has been involved in projects funded by more than $570 million in grants from state and federal sources, including the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the North Carolina Rural Center and the state Clean Water Management Trust Fund.

Basnight said he has no reason to question the Hobbs Upchurch donations, but he said he would forfeit any money that the elections board determines to be improper.

Hobbs issued a statement through his attorney Wednesday, saying the company "has fully and completely cooperated with the State Board of Elections inquiry." He said no further comment would be made while the investigation was ongoing.

State elections officials also are reviewing the donations and expenditures of several campaigns, including Perdue and former Republican gubernatorial candidate Pat McCrory, to determine whether any of them received improper contributions.