State News

Board of Elections steps up Easley investigation

Posted May 14, 2009 9:38 p.m. EDT

— The State Board of Elections, however, is stepping up its investigation into former North Carolina Mike Easley’s campaign finances.

The state Highway Patrol turned over on ThursdayEasley’s travel records from when he was governor, Capt. Everett Clendenin said.

The board is looking to see if reported free flights that Mike Easley took surpassed contribution limits.

Easley took at least 25 flights on private jets during his final six years in office. He didn't pay for some of the flights, and the value of other trips exceed state campaign contribution limits, The News & Observer of Raleigh reported in a story published Saturday.

Easley might have taken even more flights on private planes. Records from the Highway Patrol, which travel with and provide security for the governor, are missing for all of 2005 and other significant stretches, the paper reported.

The flights could break ethics and campaign finance rules. North Carolina law requires the disclosure of gifts over $200, and Easley didn't report some of the free flights. The law also prevents corporations from donating to campaigns and limits individuals to giving $4,000 to a candidate in an election cycle.

The market value of many of the flights appears to be over $4,000 or enough to top the legal limit when combined with other contributions.

It can cost up to $1,300 an hour to charter the kind of private plane the governor needs to travel.

Anyone found to have violated campaign fiance laws faces civil or misdemeanor criminal penalties.