Basnight returns disputed funds|Donor was fined by State Board of Elections

Published 11:08 am Friday, December 10, 2010

Staff Writer

The campaign of state Sen. Marc Basnight, D-Dare, relinquished $109,000 in funds Thursday after the donor who contributed the funds was fined by the State Board of Elections.
Basnight’s campaign gave up the money following a State Board of Elections hearing Thursday, said Basnight spokesman Schorr Johnson.
Former state Sen. Fred Hobbs paid a $150,000 fine following an acknowledgement that he had contributed campaign funds that originated with his engineering group named Hobbs, Upchurch and Associates, The Associated Press reported.
Under state law, corporations aren’t permitted to make campaign contributions, AP noted.
Disputed funds from the same pot of money also went to Gov. Beverly Perdue and other Democratic officials, according to AP.
Calls seeking comment from Perdue’s press office weren’t returned Thursday afternoon.
Kim Strach, the State Board of Elections’ deputy director in its campaign-reporting section, confirmed Basnight’s campaign had disgorged the funds.
None of the other campaigns returned their funds as of 4:30 p.m. Thursday, Strach said.
The state board is asking all of the campaigns implicated in this issue to turn in the related contributions that went through Hobbs, she reported.
The surrendered money will be channeled into the state’s Civil Penalty and Forfeiture Fund, which benefits public schools, according to Strach.
Asked to comment on the controversy, Basnight released a statement to the Daily News.
“My campaign has always fully complied with our elections laws, and it has always been my expectation — and hopefully, the expectation of every candidate for office — that anyone who contributes to my campaign does so transparently, legally, and in good faith,” the statement reads. “While it is a campaign’s responsibility to report every donation it receives, it is not in a campaign’s ability or authority to initiate investigations on the motives or actions of donors. That is why the Board of Elections is such an important resource for candidates and officeholders — and such a critical part of ensuring the integrity of our elections.”
According to Johnson, Basnight was “a force behind” a measure making it a felony to give funds to a candidate in the name of another person.
“It was, prior to this year, a misdemeanor,” Johnson said, adding the provision was approved as part of broader ethics legislation.
The ethics law went into effect Dec. 1 and can’t be made retroactive in the Hobbs case, Johnson advised.
Asked for his response to the matter at hand, Larry Britt, chairman of the Beaufort County Republican Party, gave outgoing state GOP Chairman Tom Fetzer credit for highlighting campaign-finance issues related to Democrats, suggesting Thursday’s developments vindicated Fetzer’s assertions.
“Personally, I have not read the story,” Britt said. “I just know that our state chairman has been ringing this bell for two years and everybody called him crazy and an alarmist and paranoid.”