NCGOP took nearly $2 million from donor under FBI investigation, gave some to Causey campaign

(Corey Schmidt | WBTV)
Updated: Oct. 3, 2018 at 12:54 PM EDT
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RALEIGH, NC (WBTV) - The North Carolina Republican Party took nearly $2 million from a political donor who is now under investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the United States Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina.

The donor, Greg Lindberg, lives in Durham and owns a number of businesses, including some that sell insurance products.

Lindberg is the target of a federal criminal investigation related to his business, according to a copy of a federal grand jury subpoena served on an official with the North Carolina Department of Insurance, the identity of whom has, so far, been withheld by the department.

The subpoena was first obtained and reported by WRAL late Tuesday afternoon.

According to a document attached to the subpoena, the US Attorney’s Office is investigating “drug offenses, crimes against financial institutions, or money laundering crimes.” Other documents included with the subpoena state the crime being investigated is a felony.

Campaign finance records show Lindberg has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to both Republicans and Democrats in North Carolina.

State campaign finance records show Lindberg donated $250,000 to the North Carolina Democratic Party in May 2018.

On Wednesday, spokesman Robert Howard confirmed the Democratic party had received a subpoena in connection with the investigation.

Similarly, the North Carolina Republican Party has also received a federal subpoena seeking information related to the probe.

In an interview with WBTV Tuesday night, North Carolina Republican Party Executive Director Dallas Woodhouse said upcoming campaign finance filings will show Lindberg has donated roughly $1.9 million to the NCGOP this cycle.

Woodhouse, who said he has never spoken with nor met Lindberg, said the businessman donated the money to support Republican causes.

“It was my general understanding that he had a general interest in Republican Governance, he had a general interest in the Supreme Court and he had a general interest in the legislature,” Woodhouse said.

Woodhouse said Lindberg began contributing to the state party to support a technology project.

The project, Woodhouse said, involved John Palermo who, at the time, was chairman of the Chatham County Republican Party.

Palermo’s LinkedIn profile says he began working for Lindberg as a vice president at Eli Global, one of Lindberg’s companies, in October 2017.

In a phone call Wednesday morning, Palermo said he had no involvement with Lindberg’s contributions to the NCGOP and refused to answer any other questions.

Woodhouse said Lindberg also had an interest in supporting the campaign of Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey.

Woodhouse said campaign finance filings will show the party contributed roughly $250,000 to Causey’s campaign this election cycle, one in which Causey is not on the ballot.

Woodhouse said Lindberg suggested the party - which can accept and make unlimited contributions, unlike individual campaigns, which are only limited to accepting $5,200 per election cycle - give a portion of his contribution to Causey’s campaign after the party accepted his checks.

Because his suggestions came after the money had been given, Woodhouse claimed, it would not be a directed contribution - a term also known as earmarking, when money is given to a political party with the intent that the money be passed on to a specific candidate’s campaign committee. Directed contributions are prohibited by law.

Woodhouse said his suggestions regarding Causey were just one of several he made about how the party should use the money he had given.

“He made a number of suggestions to us,” Woodhouse said. “A lot of which we did not follow.”

But Woodhouse said he decided to go along with Lindberg’s suggestion of contributing money to Causey’s campaign - which, he said, came after he contributed money to the party - because it aligned with the party’s interest.

“There’s no doubt that, in part, we would do it because the donor had an interest. The donor’s interest aligned with ours, you know?” Woodhouse said.

Woodhouse said he and the party’s treasurer had to authorize all expenditures, which is why NCGOP Chairman Robin Hayes communicated with Lindberg, according to Woodhouse.

“We never saw anything untold. There was never any kind of quid pro quo,” Woodhouse said of the party’s financial relationship with Lindberg. “There was nothing ‘can you do this? We’ll do this.’ We were never asked for anything. We never offered anything and we never asked for anything.”

A call to the campaign manager Causey’s campaign went unanswered Wednesday morning.

A secretary at Eli Global, a company owned by Lindberg, said he was not in the office Wednesday and that there was no other number at which to reach him.

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