Updated 08/24/2010 09:13 PM
Perdue campaign fined $30K for private flight omissions
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ASHEVILLE -- The state Board of Elections on Tuesday found that Gov. Bev Perdue's campaign failed to report 42 flights between 2007 and 2009 and levied a $30,000 fine, the maximum penalty for violating election laws.
Despite the ruling, the board rejected the Republican Party's request for public hearings and a criminal investigation, a decision party chair Tom Fetzer calls woefully inadequate.
“They fined the Easley campaign $100,000 for essentially the same thing,” he said. “This was a partisan Democratic board, all of whom appointed by the governor who let the governor go scott free today.”
Fetzer said the Republicans raised the issue initially and believes the Perdue campaign intentionally broke election laws. Republican board members initially requested the fine to be set at $75,000.
“It's evidence of ongoing corruption in the state of North Carolina,” Fetzer said.
Perdue's campaign painted a different picture, one of significant air travel, haphazard reporting methods and mistakes.
“We made mistakes and we want to take responsibility and so we're prepared to pay a fine and we don't think that's an unreasonable thing for the board to ask,” said campaign spokesman Marc Farinella.
There are many more accusations beyond the airplane issue that were discussed in this meeting. Fetzer accuses the Board of Elections chair and executive director of corrupting the investigation. He said this issue is not over yet.
Though they have differing opinions about the how the violations actually happened, many political watchdogs do agree that questions into the investigation have gone unanswered because of the State Board of Elections ruling.
"What I don't think that the board did and should have done is to investigate who violated the law and why. That would require, I think, public hearings. It would require, I think, brining in people under oath having them testify," said John Hood, of the John Locke Foundation
"If they would have done an exhaustive search through the office and the campaign office and gotten all of this out a year ago, we wouldn't be sitting here. We would have had all these questions answered," said Chris Fitzsimon, of N.C. Policy Watch.
The board also found the Fred Smith, Bill Graham, Pat McCrory and Richard Moore campaigns also violated travel reporting requirements. However, the board suspended the penalties, calling them mistakes.
Each of the campaigns is now required to work with the Board of Elections on travel reporting in the future.