NC GOP chairman, major political donor indicted in alleged bribery scheme

Robin Hayes, NC Republican Party chairman
Robin Hayes, NC Republican Party chairman

By Travis Fain, WRAL statehouse reporter

Raleigh, N.C. — North Carolina’s largest political donor and three others, including the chairman of the North Carolina Republican Party, have been arrested on bribery charges.

Greg Lindberg, two of his business associates and state GOP Chairman Robin Hayes were all indicted by a federal grand jury last month, but the indictments were sealed until Tuesday. They turned themselves in to the FBI in Charlotte on Tuesday and had first appearances before a U.S. magistrate judge.

They’re all accused of trying to bribe state Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey, who got in touch with federal investigators and recorded conversations quoted in the indictment. The alleged scheme would have traded more than $1 million in political contributions in exchange for regulatory help at the department.

Hayes, a former congressman and GOP candidate for governor, is also charged with three counts of lying to the FBI. On Monday he announced that he wouldn’t seek another term as chairman of the state Republican Party, citing his health.

Brian Benczkowski, the assistant attorney general for the Department of Justice’s criminal division in Washington, D.C., called the scheme “brazen” in a news release Tuesday. A spokesman for Lindberg said in an email that Lindberg “is innocent of the charges in the indictment, and we look forward to demonstrating this when we get our day in court.”

Greg Lindberg, Eli Global/political donor
Greg Lindberg

Lindberg owns or is involved in hundreds of companies, including several regulated by the state Department of Insurance. The indictments indicate federal investigators have been poking around since January 2018, when Causey called them. Lindberg’s allegedly wanted Causey to fire or reassign an unnamed deputy commissioner causing problems for some of the businesses Lindberg owns and offered up to $2 million in political donations to get it done.

Lindberg has given more than $5 million to North Carolina political campaigns over the last few years, including more than $1.49 million to the state Republican Party. The state party turned around and gave $250,000 of that to Causey’s campaign, and the indictment alleges this was an attempt to get around state political giving rules, which allow unlimited donations to parties but cap individual campaign donations at $5,400.

The indictment describes a number of clandestine meetings, at least some of which Causey recorded. The two other men indicted, Lindberg consultant John Gray and John Palermo, a vice president at Lindberg’s Eli Global business and the current or former chairman of the Chatham County…

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