North Carolina’s insurance commissioner said he’s handing over to the federal government a contribution that’s the subject of a citizen’s complaint alleging improper campaign giving by a leading state donor who also faces scrutiny from federal investigators.
Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey told WRAL-TV last week it was the FBI’s idea to send in the $240,000 he received in July from the state Republican Party. He said the agency told him he couldn’t return it to the GOP because it “was part of their investigation.”
The handoff was neither part of any deal nor a federal government seizure, Causey told the station.
“Our campaign is simply sending them a check,” Causey said Wednesday. A FBI spokeswoman in Charlotte declined to comment Thursday.
A state elections complaint filed Oct. 29 by ex-Wake County Democratic Party leader David Bland alleges the contribution to Causey came from $1.5 million that Durham investment firm founder Greg Lindberg donated to the state GOP in the 18 months ending June 30. Lindberg founded a Durham,N.C., investment company that controls several insurance firms.
The complaint claims Lindberg gave the money to the Republican Party as way to bypass individual donation limits to campaign committees of $5,200 per election. Parties can give unlimited amounts to candidate committees. Bland’s complaint alleges donations to Causey were earmarked from Lindberg’s party giving, citing comments made by state GOP Executive Director Dallas Woodhouse about Lindberg to a television station.
Routing the contribution to Causey through the GOP was an “end-run around” the contribution cap, Bland wrote in his complaint. He said the board should force Causey to forfeit the donation and determine violations occurred.
Woodhouse said in early October he hadn’t spoken to Lindberg about how his recent large donations to the GOP but was told Lindberg had an interest in helping “build up the commissioner’s campaign, and we took that under advisement.”
But Woodhouse told The Associated Press it was ultimately the party’s decision and the money “was fully under (our) control.” The party would never consent to how such a donation would be used before accepting it, he said.
Causey, who was elected in 2016 and is not on the ballot this fall, and Woodhouse said state campaign finance laws were followed.
“We made a legal donation,” Woodhouse told WRAL. “What Mike Causey decided to do with it is up to him.”
Federal investigators subpoenaed the North Carolina Department of Insurance last month seeking information on Lindberg and insurance companies associated with Lindberg.
Causey said the department is cooperating with federal investigators and he and the department are not targets of the federal inquiry.
Lindberg, who hasn’t commented publicly about the elections complaint or federal subpoena, has given more than $5 million since 2016 to North Carolina candidate and party committees and independent expenditure groups, according to campaign finance reports. Some of the money has gone to the Democratic Party.
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