Feds, BOE, look at Easley

May 18, 2009 2:37:41 AM PDT
The North Carolina State Board of Elections began a criminal investigation of former North Carolina Governor Mike Easley's campaign Friday.The move closes its files to public inspection, and a statement from the board did not say exactly what potential campaign violations it plans to examine.

The action came the same day federal investigators announced they are taking a look at Easley's use of private planes while he was in office.

Saturday Easley released a written statement regarding the investigation. He said, "I am comfortable with the federal authorities collecting and reviewing all records relating to my 30 years of public service to the people of North Carolina. I am confident of the outcome and we look forward to moving on with our private lives."

Click here to read the subpoena (.pdf)

The FBI sent the state Highway Patrol a subpoena ordering it to produce all records of private travelling done by the Governor, his wife Mary, and his son Michael Easley Jr.

The subpoena says the documents are needed for an ongoing grand jury investigation. Specifically, investigators want to see details of payments made for air travel, communications made regarding air travel, and communications made regarding public inquiries related to air travel.

The Highway Patrol said they were working on the request.

"It's a lot of paperwork," patrol spokesman Capt. Everett Clendenin said. "We're in the process of gathering it now and the patrol will comply with the request."

The Raleigh News and Observer has published a series of articles on Easley and his family's use of private planes, automobiles provided by car dealers, and a land deal.

The newspaper says the Governor and his staff refused to release travel documents while he was in office citing security concerns. Now, the N&O says the Highway Patrol claims records for entire years in some cases are missing.

Published reports say Easley took at least 25 flights on private jets during his final six years in office. He didn't pay for some of the flights while the value of other trips exceed state campaign contribution limits.

Several of the businessmen who provided the planes to Easley were appointed to the boards of state agencies and universities, The N&O reported.

The flights could break ethics and campaign finance rules. North Carolina law requires the disclosure of gifts over $200, and Easley didn't report some of the free flights. The law also prevents corporations from donating to campaigns and limits individuals to giving $4,000 to a candidate in an election cycle. The market value of many of the flights appears to be over $4,000 or enough to top the legal limit when combined with other contributions. It can cost up to $1,300 an hour to charter the kind of private plane the governor needs to travel.

A grand jury has also spent time looking at an arrangement where Easley's wife and son drove cars provides by car dealerships for free. In an interview with Eyewitness News, Easley said he owned the cars, but DMV records show Easley bought a used GMC Yukon which his son had been driving two days after our interview.

Mary Easley also drove a car that was characterized as "a loaner" for months.


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