North Carolina Republican Party Chairman Robin Hayes is one of four men charged with federal bribery and wire fraud charges in an indictment unsealed in court Tuesday.
Hayes, major political donor Greg Lindberg, and two Lindberg associates are accused of attempting to improperly influence North Carolina insurance commissioner Mike Causey with $2 million in campaign contributions.
“A brazen bribery scheme”
A major political donor, Greg Lindberg is the owner of investment company Eli Global, LLC, and the insurance holding company Global Bankers Insurance Group.
According to federal prosecutors, Hayes helped Lindberg offer Republican Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey millions of dollars in campaign contributions in exchange for actions beneficial to Lindberg’s businesses. These included the removal of a senior deputy insurance commissioner Lindberg wanted out.
“The indictment unsealed today outlines a brazen bribery scheme in which Greg Lindberg and his coconspirators allegedly offered hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions in exchange for official action that would benefit Lindberg’s business interests,” Assistant Attorney General Benczkowski said in a statement.
Commissioner Causey, who was not charged with any crimes in the indictments, reported the actions of Hayes and Lindberg to the FBI in January 2018.
“I looked at it as doing my job,” Causey said in an interview.
US Attorney Andrew Murray praised Causey for exposing the scheme.
“Improper campaign contributions erode the public’s trust in our political institutions,” he said.
All four men pleaded not guilty to the charges, and were each released on $100,000 bond.
Robin Hayes accused of lying to the FBI
In addition to the bribery and fraud charges faced by the other three men, Robin Hayes was also indicted for lying to federal investigators.
According to reporting in the Raliegh-based News & Observer, Hayes denied speaking to Causey about Lindberg when questioned by the FBI. He also denied speaking to Lindberg about how a $500,000 donation would be allocated.
According to the indictment, $110,000 had been earmarked for Causey’s campaign fund. Federal campaign law prohibits earmarking general donations to state parties for specific candidates. Hayes has been previously accused of using the NC GOP to circumvent individual campaign donation limits.
Speaking in court yesterday, Hayes’ attorney Kearns Davis denied the charges made against his client.
“After a long and distinguished career in public service at the local, state, and federal levels, Robin volunteered his time helping to support the party and candidates for office in North Carolina,” Davis said.
“We look forward to a swift conclusion to this matter, and to clearing his name.”
Who is “Public Official A?”
Although not charged with any crime, the indictments unsealed Tuesday make frequent reference to an unnamed “Public Official A.”
According to reporting by POLITICO, Public Official A is Republican Representative Mark Walker.
According to texts and emails released by the Department of Justice, Public Official A was part of the effort to pressure Causey to remove the deputy insurance commissioner.
“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. I was also told that the $150,000 will be going to [Public Official A],” wrote Eli Global Vice President John V. Palmero (also indicted yesterday) in an email to Lindberg and another associate.
According to Federal Election Commission records, Walker opened the Mark Walker Victory Committee shortly after this email was sent. Lindberg became the first donor to the new committee on February 19th.
Walker has denied all wrongdoing. “We’re not even part of this investigation,” he told POLITICO.
“Walker is not and never has been a target of this investigation, and has committed no wrongdoing,” Walker spokesperson Jack Minor said in a statement. “He has assisted the DOJ.”
Robin Hayes not seeking reelection
The indictment of Robin Hayes for fraud and bribery comes just one day after he announced he would not seek reelection as chairman of the North Carolina Republican Party.
The 73-year-old former Congressman cited complications from recent hip surgery for the decision. “This is a good time to pass the torch to our strong bullpen of Republican Party leaders,” he said.
The press release announcing the decision included glowing praise for Hayes from US Senator Thom Tillis.
“The NCGOP has never been stronger thanks to Robin’s dedicated leadership over the last decade,” Tillis said.
Former North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory was equally effusive. “I could always count on Chairman Robin Hayes. His dedication to public service, the Republican Party, and his fellow man are unquestioned.”