Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The State Board of Elections voted 4 to 1 to fine Gov. Bev Perdue’s campaign committee $30,000 for failing to properly disclose private airplane flights donated to her 2008 campaign. An eight-month investigation by the Board’s chief investigator Kim Strach turned up a hodgepodge of incomplete records and compliance problems with the campaign, but not enough indication of criminal wrongdoing to justify an evidentiary hearing. The two Republican board members backed a request by NC GOP Chair Tom Fetzer for such a hearing, but the three Democrats voted that motion down. In weekly press conferences, Fetzer has succeeded in politicizing the investigation, with contradictory demands that it be sped up, concluded, and more probing, and demands that Board Chair Larry Leake and Director Gary Bartlett resign for protecting fellow Democrat, Gov. Perdue. A higher fine could have been justified for the volume of missing information and the poor cooperation of Perdue’s campaign, which dribbled out information to Strach. But Perdue’s campaign manager, Zach Ambrose, pointed out in a letter delivered to State Board members yesterday that he had given the data for the flights to the election staff in early 2008 to see if the documentation requirements were met. Ambrose got a positive review from the Board staff and gave the material to his campaign compliance officers, but for unexplained reasons they did not include some flights on disclosure reports. This was a snafu not an effort to deceive, Ambrose said: “It seems obvious to me that records related to these flights would not have been given by me to the Board in the first half of 2008 if there had been any intention on my part or on the part of the Committee to conceal information about these flights.” Interestingly, the Associated Press story today mentions Ambrose’s letter, but not the News & Observer, which has been playing up the partisan conflict between Fetzer and the State Board.

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