News&Observer Investigations

Choose a blog

Wilson gave fiance money to give to Easley

Lanny Wilson testified Monday that he gave his then-fiance money so that she could give a contribution to former Gov. Mike Easley.

State law says donors can't give in the name of another.

"No individual, political committee, or other entity shall make any contribution anonymously or in the name of another."

Wilson says he gave through party

A eastern North Carolina developer, fundraiser and Board of Transportation member testified that he gave checks to the Democratic Party that he expected to be in turn given to former Gov. Mike Easley's campaign.

Lanny Wilson said he and his wife wrote checks to the Easley campaign and were told to re-write the checks for the N.C. Democratic Party.

"It was my understanding that they would flow through the state Democratic Party and the Easley Committee would pay expenses," Wilson said.

Wilson said representatives of the Easley campaign told him it was legal to write checks to the party that were meant for Easley. State law limits contributions to a candidate to $4,000 per election cycle.

There is no limit on contributions to a political party, but checks cannot be designated for a specific purpose.

Easley directed payment for flights

Gov. Mike Easley personally ordered a campaign official's secretary to pay invoices for plane flights that were actually meant to pay for repairs to Ealsey's Raleigh home, according to testimony.

Rebecca McGhee was a secretary for Easley campaign manager Dave Horne. In 2005, McGhee wrote a memo to her boss stating that invoices from McQueen Campbell's aviation company didn't include enough backup material.
Easley called McGhee and told her to cut the check.

McGhee said she explained that normally invoices for flights come with information such as a flight log. The documents from Campbell were for "various flights" and included no supporting information.
Easley told her that he was aware of what the invoice said and that she needed to prepare the check.

The invoices were false and meant to compensate Campbell for work he had done on Easley's house, Campbell testified Monday.

Poole does not have to testify

Ruffin Poole, who was Gov. Mike Easley's special counsel, does not have to testify in the State Board of Elections hearings, a Superior Court judge has ruled.

Judge Henry Barnette said that Poole was correct in claiming attorney-client privilege in a motion filed this morning in Wake County.

Update: The Board voted to appeal the judge's decision to the N.C. Court of Appeals.

Easley was a special customer

Car dealer Robert F. Bleecker testified that he gave Gov. Mike Easley an SUV to lease with little more than a handshake and a promise to pay for it later.

Bleecker testified that the lease had no finite limit. He was waiting for the Easley's to let him know when they were done. And through a paperwork error, the Easleys were paying insurance on another, more expensive car that they had rejected.

Bleecker's dealership paid the insurance on the SUV they kept.

"The only customer you've ever treated in this fashion was Gov. Easley," Board of Elections chairman Larry Leake.
Bleecker acknowledged that no one else got that deal.

Possible Easley defense?

Former Gov. Mike Easley never specifically asked McQueen Campbell to file false bills for flights.

Under cross-examination from Easley's lawyer, Thomas Hicks, Campbell testified that he "understood" that Easley wanted him to file the invoices to reimburse himself for repairs done to Easley's Raleigh home.

"He never told you to file a false invoice to his committee?" Hicks asked. "No sir, but I understood what he meant."

"You understood what he meant," Hicks repeated.

The exchange may provide a clue to how Easley intends to defend himself.

Earlier in his questioning, Hicks pointed out that Campbell never issued an invoice to the Easley campaign. Easley may try to argue that the violations entirely the fault of Campbell.

McQueen Campbell

McQueen Campbell takes the oath as he begins his testimony Monday in the State Board of Elections hearing on former Gov. Mike Easley. 

Poole cites attorney privilege

Ruffin Poole, who was special counsel to Gov. Mike Easley said his testimony would violate the attorney-client privilege.

Poole filed a motion to quash his subpoena to testify before the board. In the filing, Poole states that he cannot testify because the rules governing the conduct of lawyers would prohibit his testimony.

Poole is seeking to have a judge review an affidavit in private and rule that he does not have to testify.

poole filing.pdf

Campaign cash fixed Easley's house

McQueen Campbell testified that Gov. Mike Easley used campaign cash to make repairs to his Raleigh home.

Campbell said that Easley asked him to take care of repairs to his home on
two separate occasions. When Campbell later asked for repayment of
thousands of dollars for doing the work, Easley encouraged him to bill
his campaign for flights.

"I just remember understanding what he
was saying, for me to bill the campaign for unbilled flights to cover
those amounts," Campbell said.

"The Easley campaign and its contributors actually paid for the repairs to Gov. Easley's home," Leake said.

"That's correct."

Campbell then testified that Easley received $5,400 from his insurance company
to cover the costs of those repairs. The insurance money didn't go to
Campbell, and it is unclear who kept the money.

Campbell assumed campaign would report flights

The State Board of Elections called McQueen Campbell to testify.

The board began its questioning of the developer and friend to
former Gov. Mike Easley by asking about the times Campbell used his
private aircraft to fly the governor around.

Campbell testified that Easley never personally asked for flights. He always dealt with someone at the campaign.

Campbell testified that the flights included many campaign stops, but also personal business, such as a Carolina Panther's game.