Easley hearings set to begin

October 25, 2009 4:33:19 PM PDT
Former Governor Mike Easley is under federal investigation, accused of violating ethics laws, getting his wife Mary a high-paying job at NC State, and using his status to purchase deeply discounted beachfront property.But Monday, he and 27 others will face the State Board of Elections, and tough questions about his campaign spending.

"They're looking more strictly at the campaign finance practices," said Bob Hall of Democracy North Carolina. "But once they start to draw that string about how was the adherence to those laws, something else may pop up."

Hall says North Carolina taxpayers could learn much more information about what went on behind the Easley scenes.

"It may turn out that someone else did make a political donation in exchange for some kind of benefit," Hall said.

A five-person elections board panel will ask the former governor why he didn't disclose a donated SUV, and likely want to know how many unreported flights he took aboard private jets owned by campaign supporters.

The gifts have an estimated $24,000 value, exceeding state mandated limits.

"They can fine a campaign for violating the rules about disclosure, they can penalize them up to triple the amount of money involved in a wrong act, they could refer perceived criminal violations to the district attorney," Hall said.

Or, Hall says, nothing could happen to Easley, though several North Carolina politicians who have faced the same investigations have gone to jail.

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