SBI opens investigation into Perdue flights

NC Governor Beverly Perdue (Steve Helber)
October 1, 2010 5:39:32 PM PDT
The State Bureau of Investigation has opened an investigation into Gov. Bev Perdue's campaign flights after a local prosecutor said he had lingering questions about a matter marred by partisan strife.

Wake County District Attorney Colon Willoughby told ABC11 Friday evening he was asking the SBI to investigate unreported flights by Perdue's election campaign.

"I have reviewed the State Board of Elections report. Based on information I saw, I thought there were some issues the board had not addressed. I’ve asked the SBI to look into payment for - and reporting of -airplane flights by Perdue Governor," said Willoughby.

Willoughby said he made the request at the end of last week. His office has reviewed invoices and other documentation from the campaign.

"Based on review of documents, there were some issues the SBOE hadn’t addressed. Perhaps they’d been hasty. They didn’t hold a hearing on this matter. That might have been part of the issue," said Willoughby.

Shortly after the news broke Friday, Perdue's campaign released a statement.

"We have confidence in the ability of the SBI to conduct a fair and impartial inquiry into this matter, and we will assist them in any way we can," said Perdue campaign spokesman Marc Farinella. "We expect that they will find the same thing that the state board of elections found which is that no one in the campaign committee intentionally violated any law. Finally we believe that it's important to note that the DA made clear that his concerns do not directly involve either Governor Perdue or any other elected official."

In August, the State Board of Elections announced it decided to fine the Perdue campaign $30,000 for 41 flights aboard campaign donors' planes during the 2004 and 2008 elections that weren't disclosed in campaign-finance reports until the past year.

The board called no witnesses to testify under oath, but decided the un-reported flights were an honest oversight, not intentional.

It said it would not hold an investigative hearing into the un-reported flights - something that drew sharp criticism from NC Republican Party Chairman Tom Fetzer.

But in August, Perdue sounded confident in the outcome of the case.

"Nobody in the campaign did anything intentionally wrong and I feel fine about it," Perdue said then.

"Let me just say what I've been saying for eight months," Perdue said. "I'm truly confident that anybody that looks at what the campaign did in an impartial unbiased way is going to walk away with the same conclusion that the State Board of Elections did."

Republicans have tried to hammer Perdue on the flights, which first came to light shortly after former Governor Mike Easley revealed he took about 100 free flights.

The Perdue campaign had said early on that flights had not been reported, because of a computer glitch and then sloppy accounting. But a board of elections report said people running Perdue's campaign had started accounting for flights back in 2005 and had a sophisticated spread sheet system by 2008.

"Nobody ever said there weren't spread sheets," Perdue said in August. "There's a lot of documentation. That's not the problem. The problem is that it was never consolidated. And there was no follow-up. I don't know what happened."

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