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Election Officials Investigating N.C. Lawmakers

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RALEIGH — Allegations of influence peddling are being made against some of the state's top lawmakers in relation to their dealings with the hog industry.

The state elections board began three days of hearings Wednesday to investigate the charges. Warrants have been issued for some who are not cooperating.

Two hog industrialists have refused to cooperate with the board, Marvin Johnson and Doug Boykin. They sent comments to the board Wednesday morning, lobbing some very negative at House Speaker Harold Brubaker. Ironically, the comments are coming from within Brubaker's own Republican party.

Hog industry leaders have alleged that Brubaker and other House Republican leaders asked for campaign contributions in exchange for not implementing more regulations during the 1997 General Assembly session. The hearing is an attempt to verify those charges.

Representative John Nichols of New Bern was first up to testify. He described a January, 1997 meeting in which Brubaker apparently became angry when asked about any upcoming legislation regarding hog farms.

"The Speaker's attitude changed," Nichols testified. "He said 'we don't owe them anything. They didn't come up with what they were supposed to, and they'll have to take whatever they get.'"

Republican Representative Robert Grady of Jacksonville corroborated Nichols' comments about what Brubaker allegedly said. "It was very much unlike Harold Brubaker," said Grady. "He's not a mean man. He's not a man that generally is in an attack mode. It was out of character, and it was different enough to make me sit back and wonder what was going on. Not so much what he meant, but what brought it to that conclusion. It seemed a little personal."

When the men were cross examined, they made no secret of the fact that they were not necessarily on the best of terms with Brubaker. Representatives and their attorneys declined a WRAL request that they comment on camera.

The hearing is expected to go on for three days. Members of the hog industry association "Farmers for Fairness" are expected to testify.

The board of elections has issued arrest warrants to those people who have refused to cooperate.