Local/State

Perdue probe could be linked to Easley investigation

Monday, October 25, 2010

Governor Beverly Perdue made her first public appearance Monday following Friday afternoon's announcement that federal investigators are probing her 2008 election campaign.

At a gathering of municipal government leaders Monday morning, she knew she'd face questions, but had little to say.

"It's an ongoing investigation. It would really be inappropriate for me to make any comment on this at all. I hope to be able to do that later, but right now I can't say anything," she told ABC11.

The State Board of Elections fined Perdue's campaign $30,000 in August for failing to report in a timely fashion private flights. A majority of the board found no deliberate effort to break the law.

And North Carolina's State Bureau of Investigation was already investigating Perdue after Wake County District Attorney Colon Willoughby said he had lingering questions about her campaign's airplane flights.

The FBI hasn't commented on what it's investigating, but subpoenas have been sent to several on Perdue's campaign.

The flights issue has been a target for Republicans who've called for a criminal investigation for months.

"We have believed all along it would take a criminal investigation to get to the truth. We still stand by our assertion that Governor Perdue and her campaign broke laws and attempted to cover up actions with lies," offered NC Republican Party Chairman Tom Fetzer in a statement.

Perdue said Monday she wasn't going to respond to Fetzer.

"It's eight days before an election, and I'm not going to get into a contest with the chairman of the Republican Party. In terms of the investigation of my campaign, it's inappropriate for me to talk about that," she said.

The Democratic Party has called the investigation political, and some local leaders at the gathering with Perdue Monday said they found the timing of the announcement Friday troubling.

"There's no question, to me, that there's something political in this latest action. The timing of that seems pretty strange to me," offered Durham Mayor Bill Bell - a Democrat.

Republicans weren't so sure.

"Well, I hope that's not the case," offered Clemmons council member Chris Jones.

While the feds aren't talking about the investigation, some speculate it may reach back to their ongoing investigation of former governor Mike Easley.

Ruffin Poole, a former top level aide to Easley, pleaded guilty in April to income tax evasion in a plea deal with federal prosecutors that included his cooperation.

The income tax charge was related to money Poole made from an investment with Lanny Wilson - one of the backers of a Carteret County development where Easley bought a lot at a heavily discounted price.

Now, North Carolina political watchdog Joe Sinsheimer speculates the feds could be focused on Perdue's relationship with Wilson - who was her campaign finance chairman.

"I'm sure they have a series of questions about what were his activities during the Governor Perdue campaign and what monies were raised and who were they raised from?" said Sinsheimer.

The day Poole was indicted, Wilson resigned from the State Board of Transportation.

Another Wilmington businessman linked to Perdue - Rusty Carter - pleaded guilty earlier this year to violating campaign donation laws.

Carter admitted he set up a scheme to give his employees bonuses that were then sent on as political contributions to Perdue and other lawmakers.

Perdue's campaign has already paid back tens of thousands of dollars it received from Carter and for the unrecorded campaign flights.

"No one knows where the federal investigation is going to go and whether it's going to go all the way to the Governor herself or the Governor's husband, we don't know any of those things," said Sinsheimer. "My guess is that we'll see some resolution with the Easley case before we see the Perdue case accelerate."

In addition to the federal investigation, Easley is also under investigation by a special state prosecutor.

Rowan County District Attorney Bill Kenerly tells ABC11 that he plans to decide whether Easley should face any criminal charges the week of November 8 - after the election.

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Tags:
bev perdue, mike easley, local/state, shae crisson
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