Local Politics

Wake DA to review elections board's report on Perdue

Posted August 26, 2010 1:06 p.m. EDT
Updated August 26, 2010 5:07 p.m. EDT

— Wake County District Attorney Colon Willoughby said Thursday that he plans to look at information from the State Board of Elections about dozens of campaign flights taken by Gov. Beverly Perdue on donors' private planes.

The State Board of Elections voted Tuesday to fine Perdue's campaign $30,000 for 41 flights during the 2004 and 2008 elections, which weren't disclosed in campaign-finance reports until the past year.

Perdue and representatives of her campaign have maintained that there was never any intent to conceal the flights, some of which might have violated state limits on contributions to candidates. Rather, they have said, the campaign had "a flawed system for recording flights," and the trips weren't discovered until an audit of campaign records was conducted last year.

The elections board tried to consult Willoughby before assessing the fine, as they are required to do under state law, but he has been tied up in a murder trial and was unavailable.

So the board fined the campaign for late reporting, a narrow scope of state elections law that didn't require Willoughby's input.

Willoughby said he would take a look at the Perdue case next week, but he was quick to note that he hasn't launched any investigation.

Last year, the elections board ordered the campaign of former Gov. Mike Easley to pay $100,000 for dozens of unreported flights, and they turned their findings over to Willoughby to determine if criminal charges were warranted.

The case eventually wound up in the hands of Rowan County District Attorney Bill Kenerly, who is expected to decide next month whether to press charges.

The elections board has investigated campaign flights by Perdue and other 2004 and 2008 gubernatorial candidates since late last year. In June, an investigative report found that most candidates didn't properly account for campaign flights, but Gary Bartlett, executive director of the elections board, said at the time that there was no evidence that anyone tried to skirt campaign finance laws.

Last week, the board released an additional 10-page investigative report that showed how Perdue's campaign kept detailed notes about her travel aboard private planes and how it was funded.

In recent months, Perdue's campaign has filed amended campaign-finance reports to reflect the flights. Some were treated as in-kind donations, and the campaign repaid other donors for flights because they had already given the maximum allowed to her campaign.

The elections board decided Tuesday not to fine the other gubernatorial candidates who improperly reported flights.