A federal grand jury has indicted the chairman of the North Carolina Republican Party and a major Republican campaign donor on conspiracy and bribery charges for their attempts to influence N.C. Insurance commissioner Mike Causey.
The indictment accuses GOP chair Robin Hayes, a former congressman, of trying to funnel bribe money to the re-election campaign of Causey.
Hayes is also charged with three counts of making false statements to the FBI.
Hayes had announced yesterday that he wouldn’t seek another term as NC GOP chairman, a decision he attributed to “health concerns.”
The indictment comes amid an investigation into a political donor, Greg Lindberg, by U.S. Attorney R. Andrew Murray, an appointee of Republican President Trump who oversees federal trials in Charlotte and the rest of Western North Carolina.
Four people — Hayes, Lindberg, John D. Gray and John V. Palermo — were charged in the case, and all four made their first appearances in court today, the same day the indictment was unsealed.
They’re charged with conspiracy to commit honest services wire fraud (a charge generally associated with the behavior of public officials) as well as bribery concerning programs receiving federal funds and aiding and abetting.
The indictment says Causey contacted federal law enforcement officials in January 2018 and has cooperated with the ongoing FBI investigation.
The indictment mentions another person in contact with Lindberg and Causey — “Public Official A” — but doesn’t name them or mention charges.
The four are alleged to have devised a scheme to defraud North Carolina citizens through attempts to bribe commissioner Causey, according to the grand jury’s indictment.
The four offered campaign donations in exchange for “specific official action favorable to GBIG” and staffing changes at the Department of Insurance, the indictment says.
Each of the four was released on $100,000 bond, on the condition that they turn in their passports and report any travel to federal probation officials.
The NC GOP has been cooperating with the federal investigation for months but didn’t learn about the indictments early today, party legal counsel Josh Howard said in a statement this afternoon.
”Early this morning, the North Carolina Republican Party was made aware of several indictments surrounding the conduct of a major donor to both major political parties and two of his associates,” Howard said in the statement.
“The Party has been cooperating with the investigation for several months, including staff members providing statements and responding to various document requests,” he said. “The Party, which has its day to day operations managed by professional staff under the direction of the NCGOP Central Committee, remains fully operational and focused on its mission at hand.”
The indictment contends that Hayes repeatedly lied to FBI agents.
Hayes, for instance, wrongly told FBI agents he’d never spoken to the insurance commissioner about Lindberg or about personnel problems at the insurance department, the indictment states.
In fact, Hayes had spoken to the commissioner about contributions from Lindberg being funneled through the state Republican party to the commissioner – and about Lindberg’s request that the commissioner move certain personnel within the department, according to the indictment.
The indictment states that Hayes lied about a $500,000 contribution that Lindberg made to the state Republican party, claiming he never talked with Lindberg about where he expected that money to go.
In reality, the indictment alleges, Lindberg and one of his consultants had directed Hayes to transfer $250,000 to the commissioner’s campaign.
The indictment says FBI agents interviewed Hayes in August 2018 and specifically asked whether Hayes was aware of “expectations” Lindberg might have had for a $500,000 donation he made to the party.
“Absolutely not,” Hayes responded, according to the indictment.
In a news release today, Assistant Attorney General Brian Benczkowski referred to the group’s alleged actions as “a brazen bribery scheme in which Greg Lindberg and his coconspirators allegedly offered hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions in exchange for official action that would benefit Lindberg’s business interests.”
Benczkowski added: “The Criminal Division will use all the tools at our disposal — including the assistance of law-abiding public officials — to relentlessly investigate and prosecute corruption wherever we find it.”
Attribution:Raleigh News and Observer