Local Politics

Federal investigation still looms for Perdue

Posted November 24, 2010 3:32 p.m. EST
Updated November 24, 2010 7:50 p.m. EST

— As the federal investigation into former Gov. Mike Easley comes to a close, current Gov. Bev Perdue remains under the microscope for how her campaign paid for and reported flights on private planes.

Federal and state investigators are looking into during Perdue's 2008 gubernatorial campaign and 41 private flights she took going back to 2005. Her campaign did not report the flights until last year.

The State Board of Elections in August fined Perdue's campaign $30,000 for the flights aboard campaign donors' planes. The campaign has paid the fine.

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.

Easley pleaded guilty Tuesday to a single campaign finance violation.

"He admitted to violating a law, which actually he didn't violate," said Bob Hall, of the campaign finance watchdog group Democracy North Carolina.

Hall said historically campaign treasurers are held responsible for reports, not politicians. Hall thinks the totality of the accusations against Easley led to the plea, so he doubts it means prosecutors will now suddenly go after candidates with bad reports, like Perdue.

Wake County District Attorney Colon Willoughby asked the State Bureau of Investigation to look into Perdue's campaign in mid-October. He said he had lingering questions about her campaign flights but that they didn't involve Perdue herself.

"Just because a politician gets in the news committing some things that don't look right, should we turn all the investigative power of the state against that politician?" Hall said.

"We know we made errors. We want to take responsibility for those errors," Perdue campaign spokesman Marc Farinella said. "What was most important to us was the recognition that no one was trying to do anything intentionally."

North Carolina Republican Party Chairman Tom Fetzer has been calling for an investigation into Perdue's campaign flights since last year. He has said that he believes that the campaign broke state law and then tried to cover it up.