The sleepy race to decide who will serve as state Insurance Commissioner was shaken up a couple weeks ago by allegations of campaign violations. On Monday, Gary Bartlett, director of the State Board of Elections, said the matter is likely to be resolved administratively rather than the more serious step of taking board action.
Wayne Goodwin, the Democratic incumbent, had accused Republican opponent Mike Causey of violating an array of campaign laws. Causey admitted some mistakes were made, but insisted they were unintentional and denied the most serious of Goodwins allegations.
In the complaint sent to Bartlett, Goodwin claimed that Causeys campaign reports were not filed electronically, that a series of magazine ads appeared out of step with campaign finance guidelines, and that a reverse raffle may have skirted state law governing nonprofits.
Candidates receiving less than $5,000 are allowed to file reports by paper, and Causey has relied on that method in the past. Causeys campaign went over the threshold, and he acknowledged a brief lapse on his part. He insisted all reports were filed on time, and in a letter to Bartlett responding to the complaints, he said the problem was quickly addressed when brought to his attention by a state auditor.
The advertising controversy centers on ads placed in Collision Expert, a Charlotte-based trade publication for auto body shops, to which Causey has contributed since 2001.
Causey said in his letter to Bartlett that no laws were knowingly violated and that all expenditures have been properly reported. Causey did, however, concede that he failed to report an in-kind contribution of $1,020, the cash value of ads placed on his behalf by Collision Expert owner John Ogden.
Ogden has run the publication since 1989, and he and his wife are the only employees. Ogden said in an interview that the problem was the result of an oversight on his part. He copied and pasted the ads from another source as a favor for Causey, he said, and was unaware of campaign law requiring a paid for by disclaimer on political ads and of the need to provide the campaign with a receipt for reporting purposes.
Ogden said the publication gives body shop owners news about the industry, business advice and motivational articles. He said his corporation, which operates the publication, is not able to funnel cash to a campaign as Goodwin questions in his complaint even if he were so inclined.
We werent even able to draw a salary last year, Ogden said. We dont have funds to funnel anywhere. ... I dont know Wayne Goodwin from Adam. He never called me, but he could certainly advertise in my paper. Wed love to have his ads.
A question that remains unsettled is whether a raffle was held on Causeys behalf. That would likely violate state law, which prohibits political campaigns from hosting raffles under most circumstances.
Goodwin questioned whether a raffle was held on Causeys behalf at a Cary restaurant on June 23. Causey denied the event was held, but Goodwin submitted to Bartlett Facebook posts by apparent organizers touting the event and saying tickets were selling fast.
Bartlett said Monday an administrative response, rather than more severe steps taken through board action, appears to be fitting. He said exact details have not been decided, and he declined further comment.