Local Politics

Wake DA asks SBI to investigate Perdue campaign flights

Posted October 1, 2010 4:26 p.m. EDT
Updated October 1, 2010 7:05 p.m. EDT

— Wake County District Attorney Colon Willoughby said Friday that he has asked the State Bureau of Investigation to look into unreported campaign flights by Gov. Beverly Perdue.

The State Board of Elections last month fined Perdue's campaign $30,000 for 41 flights aboard campaign donors' planes during the 2004 and 2008 elections that weren't disclosed in campaign-finance reports until the past year.

Willoughby stressed that his questions don't directly involve Perdue or any other elected official.

"I don't know whether anyone's done anything inappropriate," he said. "I think the State Board of Elections may have been a little hasty in its decision. There are still issues that need to be addressed."

He declined to elaborate other than to say he has questions about "the payment for and reporting of" the flights.

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.

Spokesman Marc Farinella said Perdue's campaign would cooperate with the SBI investigation but added that he believes agents will conclude that there was no criminal wrongdoing in the case.

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.

In August, 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.

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 hasn't yet decided whether to press charges.