Cover Story: Gubernatorial Campaigns Probe

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Former Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory speaking out about a new investigation involving his 2008 run for governor.  Some are questioning the timing and possible political motivation behind the new investigation.

It's based on complaints made a year and a half ago.

Members on the North Carolina Board of Elections say they're just trying to make sure they're doing they're job.

The state elections board was taken to the woodshed for not fully digging into Gov. Perdue's 2008 campaign.  Prosecutors later did and three associates of the governor were criminally charged last week.

So now in investigating McCrory some are asking is this a chance to fully vet an old complaint or is it a partisan witch hunt?

The complaint against 2008 Republican gubernatorial candidate Pat McCrory was brought by the then-head of the North Carolina Democratic Party and filed with the state Board of Elections in April 2010, seventeen months after the November '08 election.

It's now being investigated by the Board, 18 months after it was filed.

To McCrory spokesman Brian Nick there's something fishy going on.

"To muddy the political waters is convenient," Nick said.

Last week it became pubic that three people close to Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue were indicted for alleged felony campaign-finance violations:  Former campaign finance director Peter Reichard of Greensboro, Juleigh Sitton of Morganton who until recently directed Perdue's Asheville office, and Trawick "Buzzy" Stubbs, a former law partner of Perdue's late first husband.

All the charges are felonies with punishment ranging from community service to prison time.

Wake county District Attorney Colon Willoughby says the Gov. Perdue is not the focus of the continuing probe.

But with such serious charges being leveled the McCrory camp questions why the State Elections Board decided to investigate now.

"The timing is questionable. I'm not going to say it's deliberate by any means but people can think for themselves," said Nick.

He says there's nothing criminal in the two complaints made against McCrory's 2008 campaign.

One of the complaints involves coordination between the McCrory campaign and the Republican Governors Association.  A second involves bundling campaign contributions.

The executive director of the elections board reportedly said they've seen nothing so far that's raised any red flags.

Meanwhile the swirl surrounding Perdue has a member of her own party state representative Bill Faison saying he would run for governor should Perdue throw in the towel.

"I think that the focus the governor has right now appears to be not only on the indictments that have come out but the ongoing investigation which has the potential to lead to more indictments," said Faison.  "I think we need to move forward with strong leadership."

The response from the Perdue campaign:  "She is running. Mr. Faison needs to come to terms with that. He is not going to be the Democratic candidate for governor as much as he really wants to," said Marc Farinella, a Perdue campaign spokesman.

The State Board of Elections says it wants to fully investigate the accusations against the McCrory campaign before the gubernatorial campaign season starts next year.

They hope to have the probe wrapped up in the next three weeks.

McCrory has not officially announced he's running for governor in 2012, but he's been showing every sign that he's a candidate.  He's been traveling the state and raising money.  An official announcement will likely come early next year.

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