State News

Ex-lobbyist investigated over client payments

Posted April 28, 2009 8:45 a.m. EDT
Updated April 28, 2009 9:53 a.m. EDT

— The North Carolina Secretary of State's office is investigating a former lobbyist on allegations that he had clients underreport their payments to him.

A four-page statement filed in Wake County Superior Court said an investigator thought former lobbyist Don Beason told some of his 24 clients in 2007 to provide inaccurate information on state disclosure forms.

Beason said he didn't know special agent John Lynch of the Secretary of State's office was investigating and hadn't talked to him, The News & Observer reported Tuesday. Beason did not respond to further questions, the newspaper said.

The newspaper reported that Beason's lobbying ended in 2007 when reports surfaced that he gave a $500,000, no-interest loan to former House Speaker Jim Black. The former speaker is serving a five-year federal prison sentence for a political corruption conviction.

"I have discovered a pattern of under reporting of the lobbyist compensation," Lynch wrote in the sworn statement filed in the court. "This under reporting is often done at the instruction of the lobbyist without any written or substantial justification."

Lynch said he learned that Beason asked the Albemarle Mental Health Center, a regional facility in Elizabeth City, to report less than he was paid.

Lynch didn't identify the 23 other clients.

State law treats many reporting violations as misdemeanors.

Lynch's affidavit was filed as part of the Secretary of State's lawsuit seeking records about Beason from Progress Energy, one of his clients, which has since agreed to hand over the records. The Raleigh-based utility said in a statement its relationship with Beason was "handled in compliance with all applicable laws regarding lobbying compensation."

Beason once represented some of the state's biggest companies and earned fees as high as $50,000 from clients.

After ending his lobbying career, Beason was convicted of assault for brandishing a gun during a July 2007 road rage incident.