In March, a federal grand jury handed down a round of indictments that were unsealed Tuesday in a corruption investigation involving donations to the North Carolina Republican Party. The state party’s chairman is one of those indicted.
Chairman Robin Hayes spent a decade representing Charlotte in Congress, and Tuesday he surrendered himself to authorities and made his first appearance in a Charlotte courthouse.
Hayes is accused of working with Durham-based business owner and major Republican donor Greg Lindbergh and others to direct illegal contributions to Department of Insurance commissioner Mike Causey’s campaign, according to the indictment. Causey became suspicious and alerted federal law enforcement and cooperated in investigations.
The indicted parties are charged with conspiracy to commit bribery and wire fraud. Hayes, additionally, faces charges for lying to the FBI.
“The indictment unsealed today outlines a brazen bribery scheme in which Greg Lindberg and his co-conspirators allegedly offered hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions in exchange for official action that would benefit Lindberg’s business interests,” said Assistant Attorney General Brian Benczkowski.
The indictment mentions an unnamed “Public Official A” who met with the indicted parties and received a $150,000 contribution from Lindbergh. “Public Official A” also made calls on the conspirators’ behalf. Politico connected “Public Official A” to Congressman Mark Walker (R-North Carolina).
“These men crossed the line from fundraising to felonies when they devised a plan to use their connections to a political party to attempt to influence the operations and policies of the North Carolina Department of Insurance,” said Charlotte FBI Special Agent in Charge John Strong. “The FBI will root out any and all forms of public corruption. We remain committed to ensuring those who violate the public’s sacred trust are held accountable.”
This case has wider implications than just North Carolina political corruption, however, as it may speak to a core problem with the controversial Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United. This is because the indictment alleges that the conspirators intended to establish an independent expenditure committee as part of their plan.
“The allegations, if proven, would undermine Justice Kennedy’s rationale in Citizens United, where he held that independent expenditures by their very nature cannot be corrupting,” said Brett Kappel of campaign finance law firm Akerman LLP.
Hayes attributed his announcement Monday that he would not seek another term as chairman of the state party due to health concerns. The North Carolina Republican Party is cooperating with investigators.
Katelyn Kivel is a contributing editor and senior legal reporter for Grit Post in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Follow her on Twitter @KatelynKivel.