RALEIGH — Internal documents from former Gov. Mike Easley's campaign committee suggest a concerted effort to run donations illegally through the N.C. Democratic Party to circumvent contribution limits.
The evidence, released Tuesday by the State Board of Elections, included internal campaign memos that outlined ways to extract more money from donors than they could get with straightforward contributions to Easley's two campaigns for governor.
The board's questions about the memos were greeted with denials and fuzzy memories from two Easley campaign officials and a top donor. And attorneys for the state Democratic Party contended that Easley's campaign gave to the party far more than it got.
The board heard from Easley's former campaign treasurer, lobbyist Dave Horne; finance director Michael Hayden and strategist Mac McCorkle. Gary Allen, a Charlotte-area developer and major contributor, also testified about two $50,000 contributions he gave to the party in 2003 and 2004.
None said they were involved in or were aware of efforts to use the party to funnel large contributions to Easley's campaigns in 2000 and 2004.
"I would never intentionally break the law," said Hayden, who has also worked on governor's campaigns in South Carolina and Oklahoma.
Exceeding the campaign contribution limit laws is a misdemeanor, while filing false campaign reports is a felony, board chairman Larry Leake said. The state has limited individual campaign contributions to $4,000 per election cycle and prevented businesses from giving in order to limit the influence of well-heeled interests in elections. If the board believes a crime has been committed it will send evidence to prosecutors.
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