Easley car controversy continues

RALEIGH According to a published report, Easley now says the SUV his son drives was a campaign car. But he first said it was part of a lease.

On Friday, it came to light that Easley is reportedly facing a grand jury investigation over the SUV.

According to the News and Observer, a lawyer for the Easley campaign filed new documents with the North Carolina Board of Elections Monday and Friday. In them, Easley says the 2000 GMC Yukon was acquired in 2003 as a campaign vehicle.

But there's little explanation how a campaign car for one re-election in 2004, was driven for six years and 55,000 miles.

Easley said last month it was part of a lease, but records showed it was owned by a car dealer in Red Springs. That dealer paid property taxes and insurance on it.

But checking the tags, DMV records show Easley bought the SUV two days after the interview for $6,800. And one day after finally buying the car, the Easley's re-election campaign paid Bleecker another $6,700, for using the SUV for three years as a campaign vehicle.

An attorney for the Easley campaign has now filed paperwork with the state board of elections.

The letters all but admit the Easley's had been driving the Bleecker dealer SUV for six years, since 2003, with no DMV record of lease or purchase payment.

"It needs to be probed carefully, deliberately and promptly," Rep. Paul Stam said.

Bobby Bleecker's attorney said the car dealer has already spoken with federal prosecutors. And he says Bleecker is not a target of a grand jury investigation.

"He cooperated fully and truthfully, because he sees no reason why he should not respond to any of their questions," the attorney said.

And Governor Bev Perdue said Tuesday she, too, would like to learn more about the Easley campaign car.

"I'm seeing the same reports that you're seeing and reading the same stories that you are reading," Perdue said. "And I look forward to the facts being put out there for everyone in the state to think about."

The office of the state controller also released a spreadsheet Tuesday, suggesting that over the last decade, Bleecker sold the state only four cars.

At this time it's not clear how Bleecker gained any special favors by letting Easley's son drive one of his cars.

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