NC GOP Chairperson Robin Hayes was indicted Tuesday, along with a prolific North Carolina political donor, for an alleged 2018 scheme to bribe the state’s insurance commissioner.
According to a U.S. Department of Justice statement, Hayes was charged with conspiracy to commit honest services wire fraud, bribery and three counts of making false statements to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
“Thanks to the voluntary reporting of the North Carolina Commissioner of Insurance, we have uncovered an alleged scheme to violate our federal public corruption laws,” said U.S. Attorney Andrew Murray. “Improper campaign contributions erode the public’s trust in our political institutions. We will work with our law enforcement partners to investigate allegations of public corruption, safeguard the integrity of the democratic process and prosecute those who compromise it.”
Greg Lindberg, founder of Eli Global, an international investment firm, allegedly promised $2 million to N.C. Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey to replace the Senior Deputy Commissioner of the Department of Insurance. Lindberg allegedly sought to have an Eli Global executive, John Palermo, hired into the DOI. Palermo raised the topic with Causey at a closed Chapel Hill restaurant last February, the indictment alleges.
Hayes later channelled Lindberg’s $250,000 donation to the NCGOP to the insurance commissioner's 2020 campaign. Lindberg placed an additional $1.5 million into an independent expenditure committee for the commissioner’s reelection.
Hayes assured the insurance commissioner that “they always do what they say they’re going to do,” according to the indictment.
Lindberg was the largest political donor to North Carolina politicians in 2017, according to WRAL, with over $5.2 million in total contributions, including over $2 million associated toward the 2018 reelection of Republicans, specifically Lt. Gov. Dan Forest.
Michael Bitzer, a politics and history professor at Catawba College, said money’s influence in North Carolina is not just confined to the Republican party.
“I think this is a stunning blow to North Carolina politics, and it looks like the most bipartisan thing in today’s polarized environment is money,” said Bitzer. “If the allegations are proven against the Republicans, there’s also contributions to the Democratic party,” he said.
According to WRAL, Lindberg donated approximately $500,000 to the state’s Democratic party this year. In the past, he also donated $350,000 to a PAC supporting Wayne Goodwin, a Democrat, while Goodwin was the state’s insurance commissioner.
The unsealed indictment comes a day after Hayes announced he would not seek re-election. An NCGOP statement Monday said Hayes suffered hip-surgery complications.
“At the urging of activists and many elected officials, Chairman Hayes initially decided to seek re-election to a final term,” the statement said. “But recent, although temporary, issues with his mobility have prompted Hayes to alter his plans.”
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