April 3, 2019/Press

NC GOP Engulfed in Chaos A Year from Most Important Election in NC History

Raleigh – Bribery. Election fraud. Witness tampering. Lying to the FBI. 2019 will be remembered as the year that North Carolina Republicans’ corruption finally became public, as the party, a sitting Congressman, a Congressional candidate, and their gubernatorial nominee became fully engulfed in chaos. The year begin with Republican NC-09 candidate Mark Harris admitting to funding and directing an elaborate election fraud scheme to steal an election. The state party fully defended Harris, calling him an “innocent victim,” even as investigators laid out a “coordinated, unlawful” scheme. (Criminal charges are still pending.) Now, the state party Chairman and Congressman Mark Walker are engulfed in a bribery scandal in which state party Chair Hayes helped facilitate a bribe and lied to the FBI to cover his tracks. One year from the biggest election cycle North Carolina has ever witnessed – including hosting the Republican National Convention – and the entire North Carolina Republican party is engulfed in chaos.

Politico Pro: North Carolina GOP in chaos ahead of big election cycle
By Zach Montellaro and Elena Schneider
April 3, 2019

North Carolina’s Republican Party was rocked again on Tuesday as GOP chairman Robin Hayes and a prominent political donor face federal charges for allegedly attempting to bribe a state official — another blow to the party as it prepares for two House special elections, a slew of statewide battleground races and the Republican National Convention in the next two years.

The indictment unsealed on Tuesday alleged that Hayes, prominent donor Greg Lindberg and two of Lindberg’s associates directed and promised campaign contributions to Republican Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey, an elected official. All four of the men charged pleaded not guilty; Causey voluntarily reported concerns to federal law enforcement in January 2018 and was not charged.

Rep. Mark Walker (R-N.C.), who is not named in the indictment, has been identified by POLITICO as “Public Official A,” after receiving $150,000 from Lindberg at the same time Lindberg asked Walker to pressure Causey to replace his deputy, according to court documents.

The indictments have intensified the turbulence buffeting Republicans in a state set to play a central role in the next round of national political battles. Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) is considered a top target for Senate Democrats in 2020, while Republicans are aiming to pick off first-term Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper. North Carolina could be a presidential battleground again in 2020, when the RNC plans to renominate President Donald Trump in Charlotte. And a pair of House special elections are currently underway — including in North Carolina’s 9th District, where a new election was called after an investigation found evidence that a Republican operative perpetrated election fraud.

It’s not yet clear what effect the indictments will have on North Carolina Republicans, but some in the GOP privately acknowledge that it could be problematic. “This is a bad perception issue for us,” said one North Carolina Republican operative, granted anonymity to discuss internal party dynamics. “This is not helpful, and it’s now getting national attention.”

With a big two years ahead of the GOP, “it stands within reason that the RNC and others will look to stabilize the party structure in the state,” said Paul Shumaker, a Republican consultant in the state who advises Tillis, adding that North Carolina is a “very important” state and “stability is very important.”

Democrats, meanwhile, leaped on the indictments, saying they showed state Republicans “foster a corrupt system that works for them at the expense of North Carolinians,” said Aaron Simpson, a spokesperson for 9th District Democrat Dan McCready. The results of McCready’s midterm race in 2018 were thrown out and a new election was ordered after an investigation into Republican candidate Mark Harris’ campaign.

The indictments “create real chaos within the Republican Party, and even as they try to right the ship, it takes a long time to wash blood off your hands,” said Morgan Jackson, a Democratic consultant in the state. “Doesn’t come off easy.”

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Lindberg has given over $1.6 million to federal candidates and committees, according to a data from the Center for Responsive Politics.

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In 2017, Lindberg was the single biggest donor to the North Carolina Republican Party, as well as supporting Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, who is expected to run for governor.

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The indictment alleged the contributions were offered in “exchange for specific official action favorable” to a company owned by Lindberg, ‘including the removal” of a state official “responsible for overseeing the regulation” of that company.

“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,” John Strong, the special agent in charge from the FBI’s Charlotte field office, said in a release announcing the indictment.

Federal law enforcement officials also allege that Hayes lied to FBI agents when asked about his involvement and knowledge of the campaign contributions.

“The Party has been cooperating with the investigation for several months, including staff members providing statements and responding to various document requests,” North Carolina Republican Party counsel Josh Howard said in a statement, which did not directly address Hayes’ indictment. “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.”

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There is no good time for a state party leader to be indicted, but Hayes’ time in court comes at an exceptionally consequential moment for the North Carolina Republican Party.

“People thought they were inept, not crooked,” Doug Raymond, a North Carolina GOP strategist, said of the state party. Raymond said that local activists were already fed up with party leadership before the indictment, citing a recent state Supreme Court election.

The effects of the indictment could also throw off plans for the Republican convention, which is supposed to be a coronation for President Donald Trump.

“The question is: What does the wiretap reveal?” another North Carolina Republican strategist told POLITICO. “If it is damning, North Carolina politics is in for a world of hurt as 2020 approaches and the convention is on the way.”

That strategist continued: “It takes having a really organized state party to be able to run a national convention. If the party continues to be in this disarray, which it is now thrown into, then you’re going to have consequences for the convention.”

NBC News: Rough stretch for North Carolina GOP continues as chairman indicted
By Leigh Ann Caldwell and Ben Kamisar
April 2, 2019

WASHINGTON — It’s been a rough few months for the North Carolina Republican Party.

First, the state called for a new election in the 9th Congressional District—which the GOP appeared to have won—after allegations the associates of Republican Mark Harris illegally handled mail-in ballots.

And now, Robin Hayes, the former congressman who now serves as the state GOP’s chairman, was indicted Tuesday and accused of helping to bribe a state official as well as making false statements to the FBI.

Prosecutors allege that Hayes, along with three other men including a prominent GOP donor, tried to pay off a state insurance commissioner, Mike Causey, to take a handful of official actions that would benefit the donor’s company.

The donor, Greg Lindberg, owns the financial services company Eli Global and has given hundreds of thousands of dollars to largely GOP candidates.

“The indictment unsealed today outlines 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,” Assistant Attorney General Benczkowski said in a statement.

“Bribery of public officials at any level of government undermines confidence in our political system. 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.”

North Carolina Republican Party Counsel Josh Howard said in a statement that the party “has been cooperating with the investigation for several months” and “remains fully operational” despite the indictment of its chairman.

Lindberg’s attorney, Anne Tompkins, said in a statement that her client is “innocent of the charges in the indictment and we look forward to demonstrating this when we get our day in court.”

The news comes one day after Hayes announced that he’d step down after this year’s state party convention, a decision he said he made because of complications from a recent surgery.

The indictment comes during a tumultuous time for the state party, less than two months after the state called for a new election in the state’s 9th Congressional District after allegations that associates of Republican Mark Harris illegally handled mail-in ballots.

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