According to the indictment, Hartsell spent $210,000 in campaign funds for private purposes from the beginning of 2007 to the end of 2015.
Hartsell has served in the N.C. Senate since 1991, making him the longest-sitting senator in the chamber.
Bob Hall, executive director of Democracy North Carolina, said he did not think the news was surprising.
“We weren’t involved in the Fletcher Hartsell investigation, but I am very familiar with a pattern of candidates using campaign money,” he said.
A state law enacted in 2006 required political committees and parties to file disclosure reports about the contributions they receive to the N.C. Board of Elections.
Hall said one way to prevent incidents like Hartsell’s from happening in the future are further steps toward electronic disclosure forms to create an database of campaign contributions.
“The Hartsell case shows that we need to keep pushing for options that lessen the corrupting influence of money,” Melissa Kromm, director of the North Carolina Voters for Clean Elections, said in an email.
According to the indictment, Hartsell’s campaign funds were used privately, for his law firm and for a company he owns.
Hartsell told the N.C. Board of Elections he spent campaign money on multiple expenditures that were campaign or office-holding related. According to the indictment, one example of these involved tickets to the theatrical performance Jersey Boys due to the show’s therapeutic quality.
The indictment contains 14 charges against Hartsell, including five counts of mail fraud, three counts of wire fraud and six counts of money laundering.
If Hartsell is found guilty he will have to forfeit property involved in any of the illegal transactions, or pay a monetary amount of at least equal value.
To fill his seat in the Senate, the North Carolina Republican Party will suggest a replacement, who is then to be appointed by the governor, Hall said.
However, Hall said during Hartsell’s years in the state Senate, he had done a lot of good work for his constituency.
“Senator Hartsell was very generous in giving time and support to a lot of different organizations and groups in his constituency,” Hall said. “He was kind of a bridge maker between different factions and he had a lot of friends, and he still does I’m sure, so I’m sure it saddens many, including myself, that this has come to pass.”