Monday, November 02, 2009

Hall: Dems were not 'cleared'

Hall: Dems were not 'exonerated'

Bob Hall, the director of the nonprofit organization Democracy North Carolina, a watchdog over government in general and elections in particular, is one of the reasons the State Board of Elections held a series of hearings last week that wound up with the board penalizing former Gov. Mike Easley's campaign $100,000 (a $60,000 forfeiture for air flights that were not reported and a $40,000 fine for the cost of the board's investigation) and sending evidence it received to the Wake District Attorney's office to determine whether criminal charges should be pursued. Hall had filed a complaint with the board arguing that a review of campaign finance disclosure reports showed evidence of a plan to raise contributions beyond the legal amount from individual contributors to Easley's campaign by channeling them through the state party.

The board also ordered the State Democratic Party to forfeit $9,000 in contributions that that the Easley campaign had sought. The contributions were to be sent to the party and earmarked for Easley's use, according to testimony. The State Democratic Party took note of the fact that the State Board of Elections did not single out the party for any wrongdoing, and said that amounted to the board's exoneration of the party.

Not so fast, says Hall. In a Saturday afternoon e-mail to reporters and editors at the News & Observer and the Observer, Hall said the evidence made it clear there was "sufficient evidence" to show that the scheme worked as planned -- and that the Easley committee, two contributors and the party had violated state law. He also took issue Monday with a line in an Observer editorial that said the board did not find the Democratic Party at fault.

Here’s what he said Saturday:
I don’t think it’s right to say the State Board of Elections cleared the Democratic Party of all wrongdoing. The unanimous vote to order the Party to forfeit $9,000 resulted from concluding that there was sufficient evidence to show that donations had been solicited for Easley’s benefit, made payable to the Party, and used to pay expenses for the Easley campaign – i.e., that the donor, Easley Committee, and Democratic Party were all involved in a type of earmarking that violates NCGS 163-278.14(a): “No individual, political committee, or other entity shall make any contribution anonymously or in the name of another. No candidate, political committee, referendum committee, political party, or treasurer shall knowingly accept any contribution made by any individual or person in the name of another individual or person or made anonymously.”

The statute of limitations has expired on misdemeanor charges, but not on a civil penalty. The Board decided that it had evidence regarding the donations from Lanny Wilson and Nick Garrett, but testimony did not support charges involving other donations. The penalty could not have been assessed unless there was evidence the Party participated in the earmarking scheme for the Wilson and Garrett donations. I’m not asking you to write more about all this, except that in your Correction section, I think it would be good to say that beyond two cases of illegal earmarking involving the Wilson and Garrett donations, the Party was cleared of any further wrongdoing. That way, the clarification will appear when somebody retrieves the original story some months from now. What do you say?

BTW, here’s how Fayetteville Observer reports it: “The board ordered the state Democratic Party to forfeit $9,000 in campaign funds for two donations that were solicited by Easley's campaign committee. Easley supporters Nick Garrett and Lanny Wilson, both of Wilmington, testified that they gave the Democratic Party donations above the $4,000 individual campaign limit with the understanding that the money would be returned to Easley's committee. The board ruled that the party violated campaign finance laws because a $4,000 check from Garrett and a $5,000 check from Wilson had been earmarked for the Easley committee.”

And here’s what he said Monday:

Maybe quoting the Board’s adopted motion itself will be helpful, which I have below. I see CO’s weekend editorial also says “the board did not find the party at fault,” which I’m sure delights party’s spinners. Maybe a correction that will ride with that editorial into Google-land would be appropriate. Illegal earmarking includes the party spending the money for the earmarked candidate.

Leake motion, unanimously adopted, about the 2 cases of earmarking ended with him saying “. . . the sum of $9,000 and, as there has not been sufficient evidence shown of any OTHER violations of North Carolina law on the part of the North Carolina Democratic Party, that the remainder of the complaint as to that entity be dismissed.”
See 1:38 into video of his motion at:


aaa said...
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Anonymous said...

How convenient - Observer prints a story that hundreds of thousands of people will read headlined DEMOCRATS CLEARED, then buries the truth (Democrats NOT cleared) deep on their website.

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