Politics & Government

Ex-N.C. Gov. Easley's campaign finances should be probed, says watchdog group

RALEIGH — A campaign finance watchdog group is urging the State Board of Elections to conduct an open hearing about the campaign activities of former Gov. Mike Easley, saying that new research raises questions about the campaign's handling of contributions.

Bob Hall, executive director of Democracy North Carolina, said his organization has found "two troubling patterns" — one that involves travel and other expenses of the Easley campaign and another that used the state Democratic Party as a conduit for contributions to the Easley campaign.

State campaign laws do not allow a campaign supporter to give to a candidate through a third party, and there are limits on how much can be given during an election period.

A hearing would "address the mysteries surrounding these activities and bring into sharp focus any violations of the state's elections laws," Hall wrote in a letter this week to elections Chairman Larry Leake of Mars Hill. Leake could not be reached Thursday.

A spokesman for Easley declined to address questions about election laws. The spokesman, political consultant Ace Smith, said hearings are not warranted because the issue is being fueled by inaccurate or innuendo-laden stories in The News & Observer.

State elections officials are formally investigating the Easley campaign but have not commented on where the probe stands. Gov. Beverly Perdue, a Democrat, recently made her appointments to the board, which is made up of three Democrats and two Republicans. Easley is a Democrat who left office in January.

The elections board is scheduled to meet next week. As part of the inquiry, elections officials could exonerate the Easley campaign, fine it, refer possible criminal acts to prosecutors, or open a hearing to gather more detailed information.

To read the complete article, visit www.newsobserver.com.

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