Local Politics

State elections board to investigate Basnight donor

Posted November 23, 2010 5:39 p.m. EST

— The State Board of Elections said Tuesday that it will hold a hearing next month to determine whether a former state senator broke campaign finance laws.

The Dec. 9 hearing is in response to a complaint filed by North Carolina Republican Party Chairman Tom Fetzer, who said political donations by employees of Hobbs Upchurch and Associates look suspicious.

The Southern Pines engineering firm is headed by former Sen. Fred Hobbs and David Upchurch. Hobbs Upchurch workers gave more than $70,000 over the past decade to outgoing Senate President Pro Tempore Marc Basnight, and both partners also contributed to Basnight and other political campaigns.

State elections officials say they have documented $148,000 in donations to various campaigns from people tied to Hobbs Upchurch, and board members want to determine if Hobbs has funneled money to others to get around contribution limits.

An individual cannot give more than $4,000 to a candidate in an election cycle. State law bars corporations from making donations to candidates, and it prohibits one person from making a campaign contribution under someone else's name.

In May, 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.

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

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