Federal authorities have grabbed nearly $1.5 million that a North Carolina insurance magnate intended to use as political donations, arguing the funds may be forfeited for an attempt to bribe the state’s top insurance regulator.
Federal court records unsealed Friday show the FBI seized Greg Lindberg’s money from the North Carolina Growth and Prosperity Committee. A judge will decide later whether the government keeps the money.
Prosecutors said another $500,000 in a committee bank account was to be channeled to state Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey through the state Republican Party. The independent political committee that federal prosecutors allege was created to help an insurance magnate bribe North Carolina officials has relinquished the nearly $500,000 it had left to the federal government.
The North Carolina Growth and Prosperity Committee handed over the entire $475,630 in its bank account one day before the criminal case was announced in April, a mid-year campaign finance report filed shows. The filing referenced a “legal order,” but a search of court records shows no decision requiring the committee to empty its account.
Federal prosecutors based in Charlotte declined to explain, spokeswoman Lia Bantavani said. The committee’s treasurer, John Palermo, didn’t respond to email or phone messages. The forfeited funds were first reported by WRAL-TV.
Palermo, Durham insurance magnate Greg Lindberg, former North Carolina Republican Party Chairman Robin Hayes and a fourth man were charged with trying to funnel state Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey huge campaign contributions in return for special treatment for his insurance companies based in the state.
All four defendants pleaded not guilty. A trial is scheduled for September.
The indictments say the committee created with $1.5 million of Lindberg’s money was to funnel money to Causey. Causey’s campaign also was supposed to get another $500,000 channeled through the state GOP, the indictments said.
Causey reported the attempt to funnel the $2 million to his campaign in return for special treatment for insurance companies owned or run by Lindberg.
Lindberg had contributed more than $7 million since 2016 to state and federal candidates and committees, significantly favoring Republican causes. The state’s top political donor gave the North Carolina Republican Party almost $1.5 million in 2017 and 2018, and $500,000 to the state’s Democrats, according to state campaign finance records.
One Democrat that Lindberg backed was Causey’s predecessor as insurance commissioner, current state Democratic Party chairman Wayne Goodwin. Lindberg gave almost $10,000 to Goodwin’s unsuccessful 2016 campaign and another $450,000 to a committee that produced pro-Goodwin commercials, state campaign finance records show.
Goodwin told The Associated Press in April that he never performed favors for Lindberg. Though his agency approved changes benefiting the businessman, Goodwin said he relied on staff experts when those changes were made.
Associated Press writer Emery Delesio contributed to this story, as did Jonathan Drew in Raleigh, North Carolina.
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