SBI investigating possible campaign finance violations by former lobbyist

Mark Bibbs drives away from a WBTV reporter trying to ask him questions.
Mark Bibbs drives away from a WBTV reporter trying to ask him questions.((source: Corey Schmidt))
Published: Oct. 12, 2018 at 8:14 PM EDT
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RALEIGH, NC (WBTV) - The North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation is investigating Mark Bibbs, an attorney and former lobbyist, for potential campaign finance violations.

Bibbs was the subject of a 10-count indictment handed down by a Wake County grand jury in February that included charges of obstruction of justice, perjury and lobbying without registration, among others.

The charges, which are still pending, came more than a year after WBTV first reported on Bibbs’ lobbying efforts on behalf of a bail bonds company called Cannon Surety during a time in which he was not a registered lobbyist.

The current SBI investigation, which began in late September 2017, started with a referral from Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman.

Previous: Raleigh lawyer faces 10-count indictment stemming from WBTV investigation

Freeman said she referred the current investigation to the SBI based as a result of evidence obtained during the previous investigation conducted by criminal investigators with the North Carolina Secretary of State’s office.

“This is a developing or ongoing investigation,” Freeman told WBTV.

In an email, Bibbs referred questions about the ongoing investigation to his attorney, Hart Miles, who subsequently declined to comment.

An affidavit filed by an agent with the SBI’s Financial Crime Investigation Unit shows agents with the Secretary of State’s office—led by Special Agent AH Jones—found evidence of illegal campaign contributions when they executed a search warrant at Bibbs’ office last year.

“Your affiant has spoken with SA Jones and she indicated that her lobbying investigation revealed that, while an attorney and registered lobbyist, Bibbs allegedly solicited corporate money for campaign contributions, and actively participated in concealing the true source of the money,” the affidavit attached to the SBI’s search warrant said.

Specifically, the affidavit said Jones found evidence of contributions solicited by Bibbs for three members of the North Carolina House of Representatives during a search of his office.

“A series of check receipts for what appeared to be cashier’s checks purchased by Lyne Thompson on October 26, 2016 were discovered in Bibb’ office, documenting amounts contributed to various political campaigns, including $1,000 to Robert Reives II for NC House; $1,000 to Friends of Tim Moore; and $500 to Jason Saine for House,” the warrant said.

Lyne Thompson and two others are involved in bail bond businesses associated with Cannon Surety on whose behalf Bibbs has lobbied without being registered, documents previously obtained by WBTV have shown.

Criminal investigators have said Thompson’s legal name is Mina Mustian.

The warrant says a time sheet on Bibbs’ desk contained a note for October 26, 2016 that read “mail cks (sic) for Lyne @5:00.”

Campaign finance records for Moore, Saine and Reives confirm all three candidates’ campaigns received contributions from Lyne Thompson in the fourth quarter 2016.

“SA Jones stated it appeared as though Bibbs knowingly transferred the three campaign contribution checks bearing a known alias name to NC House of Representatives Speaker Moore and Representatives Reeves (sic) and Saine in or around October 2016.”

In addition to the fact that Bibbs helped to facilitate campaign contributions for someone using an alias, state campaign finance law says lobbyists cannot “collect any contributions from one or more contributors, take possession of such contributions, or transfer or deliver contributions to a member of or candidate for the General Assembly or Council of State.”

State lobbying registration records show Bibbs was a registered lobbyist at the time the affidavit alleges he solicited, collected and distributed the contributions from Thompson.

The affidavit highlights the fact that Bibbs and Moore were college roommates and were still close through the time of the October 2016 contribution, “as evidenced by email and text messages” reviewed during the investigation.

Specifically, the affidavit said Bibbs had lobbied Moore and other lawmakers in support of legislation he got introduced in the North Carolina House of Representatives, House Bill 641, that would benefit Thompson and his other bail bond clients.

WBTV has previously reported on Bibbs’ efforts to lobby for HB 641 and against a separate bill introduced in the Senate that he claimed would have harmed his bail clients. A bulk of that lobbying work was done during a time in which he was not a registered lobbyist, emails and other documents previously obtained by WBTV have shown.

Previous: Lobbying complaint filed against lawyer with ties to Speaker, Insurance Commissioner

Legislative records show HB641, which was introduced in the 2015 long session, was sponsored by Reives and Saine.

Despite Bibbs’ efforts to support the bill, legislative records show it did not pass either legislative chamber.

In a phone call, Reives said he did not recall thinking anything about Thompson’s campaign contribution was suspicious and did not believe it was connected to the fact that he had sponsored HB 641.

In separate statements, both Moore and Saine said they had no knowledge of the fact that Thompson’s contribution may have been illegal and vowed to donate the money to charity.

“Thanks for alerting my campaign about this affidavit and the alleged wrongdoing by Mr. Bibbs associated with this contribution,” Saine said. “In light of this information, my campaign will be donating the $500 to the Lincoln County Coalition Against Child Abuse.”

Moore emailed the following statement:

“I was not aware of this affidavit, and I appreciate the opportunity to comment, but I have no other details to share than what you have provided. Given the circumstances surrounding this contribution that you have shared with me, my campaign will donate the $1,000 to a local charity here in Cleveland County.”

The search warrant with the affidavit detailing the alleged illegal contribution from Thompson was executed in April 2018. It was under seal until August, records show.

The full scope of the SBI’s ongoing investigation is not clear. A web page for the SBI’s Financial Crime Investigation Unit says the unit is “heavily involved in political corruption investigations when a financial motive is involved.”

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