A Giant Scandal Is Engulfing the North Carolina Republican Party

State News

Before October 2018, Greg Lindberg was not a name you knew unless you occupied seedy insurance boardrooms or the upper echelons of North Carolina politics. Now, he’s bringing down the top of the state’s Republican Party.

On Tuesday, the FBI arrested Lindberg, two business associates, and state GOP chairman and former congressman Robin Hayes on bribery charges, with the entire group appearing before a Charlotte judge this morning. Hayes—who conveniently announced on Monday that he won’t seek a fifth term as chairman—is also being charged with three counts of lying to the FBI.

The four men are accused of attempting to bribe North Carolina’s current Insurance Commissioner, Republican Mike Causey. The plan was to pay off Causey with over $1 million in campaign donations in exchange for helping out their businesses, according to the indictment, and a portion of a $240,000 donation Lindberg made to the NCGOP was forwarded to Causey. NCGOP executive director Dallas Woodhouse told the news station the move was perfectly legal. (Since the arrests, Woodhouse has been unusually quiet on Twitter and the NCGOP has released a say-nothing statement.)

Unfortunately for the would-be corporate hustlers, Causey rang up the FBI at least as early as August 2018 and recorded their future conversations. This is where things went from bad to worse for North Carolina Republicans.

As pointed out by Politico, three-term U.S. Rep. Mark Walker was quickly identified from the unsealed indictments as “Public Official A.” According to texts and emails released by the Justice Department, Walker was the recipient of $150,000 in political donations from Lindberg around the same time that one of Lindberg’s consultants asked him in a February 2018 email to lean on Causey to replace his deputy.

Walker denied any illegal activities when reached for comment by Politico. “We’re not even part of this investigation,” Walker told the outlet. “I’m not going to get into [that with] you with any kind of details.” A spokesperson also told Politico that Walker “is not and never has been a target of this investigation, and has committed no wrongdoing,” and that the congressman “has assisted the DOJ.”

On February 12, according to the indictment, Lindberg business associate John Palermo emailed Lindberg and John Gray. “Just between the 3 of us … [Public Official A] has already made two calls on our behalf and is trying to help us move the ball forward,” Palermo wrote. “I was also told that the $150,000 will be going to [Public Official A].” (Palermo and Gray were indicted on Tuesday along with Hayes and Lindberg.)

In the past two years, Lindberg has quietly made a name for himself as one of the largest political campaign donors in the Tar Heel State, earning write-ups about his political activities but always opting to remain silent. Then, in October 2018, subpoenas issued to the state Department of Insurance revealed that he was under investigation by the FBI for unspecified white collar crimes.

In late February 2019, the Wall Street Journal published a thorough breakdown of Lindberg’s business and political affairs. It’s well worth a read, but the short of it is that Lindberg amassed a fortune by setting up shell companies and investing the premiums from those companies into companies he owned, doing so at rates much higher than the industry norm and in states with low-to-no regulatory standards—such as North Carolina.

While the scandal has hit the North Carolina GOP particularly hard, the Democrats might not escape unscathed, either. Wayne Goodwin, the current chairman of the North Carolina Democratic Party, was the state’s insurance commissioner at the time of one of the shell moves detailed by the Journal. Goodwin lost his bid for a third term to Causey in 2016.

Per the records pulled by the newspaper, Lindberg also created a PAC that bought ads supporting Goodwin and poured $425,000 into the account. And after he concluded his run as insurance commissioner, Goodwin went and got himself a job working for one of Lindberg’s companies along with two other DOI employees, per WBTV.

Goodwin also denied any wrongdoing in a statement to the Journal and, like Walker, is definitely not sweating at all right now.

You can read the full indictment below.

Update, 6:14 p.m. EST: Lindberg’s lawyers sent Splinter a statement Tuesday evening regarding the charges.

“Greg Lindberg is innocent of the charges in the indictment and we look forward to demonstrating this when we get our day in court,” said Anne Tompkins, Mr. Lindberg’s attorney.

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