McCrory, lawmakers donate campaign funds from gambling executive caught in Florida probe

jfrank@newsobserver.comcjarvis@newsobserver.comMarch 14, 2013 

— Gov. Pat McCrory and state lawmakers are purging their campaign accounts after a sweepstakes company owner and major North Carolina political donor was arrested as part of an illegal gambling investigation in Florida.

Chase Egan Burns, the owner of International Internet Technologies and a key player in North Carolina’s elusive video sweepstakes games, faces charges that include racketeering and money laundering in connection with an investigation into the Allied Veterans of the World charity. So far the investigation has led to more than 50 arrests and the resignation of Florida’s lieutenant governor.

Burns and his wife gave at least $158,000 to North Carolina political parties and candidates in 2012, according to campaign finance records, including the maximum $8,000 to McCrory. They also gave another $55,000 to Republican legislative caucuses.

A McCrory spokesman said Thursday that his campaign donated the money to the Durham Rescue Mission after Burns’ arrest.

N.C. House Democrats who received contributions also pledged Thursday to donate the money to various veterans charities. Campaign reports indicate roughly 40 lawmakers received money from Burns, but the number of lawmaker and the total amount is likely much more.

The law does not require lawmakers to forfeit the money unless the contributions are deemed illegal and it’s unclear if all politicians who received campaign donations will give the money to charity. Republican legislative caucus officials, who received the largest donations, did not return messages seeking comment.

International Internet Technologies, which reportedly has more than 100 licensees in North Carolina that employ about 1,100 people, was a leading sweepstakes firm trying to fight the state’s ban on electronic games that allow users to win prizes.

The company hired two major lobbying firms, Moore & Van Allen and Nexsen Pruet, to push an effort to legalize and tax the Internet sweepstakes games after the state Supreme Court upheld the ban in December.

Moore & Van Allen, the Charlotte law firm where McCrory worked on client development until shortly before taking office, dropped the Oklahoma-based sweepstakes company as a client Thursday. Nexsen Pruet declined to comment. So far, no legislation to legalize the games has been introduced in the N.C. General Assembly.

Burns’ company supplied the gambling units to Allied Veterans, saying the proceeds would go to the nonprofit based in St. Augustine, Fla. But according to investigators the group received only 2 percent of the $300 million earned on the gaming software.

Allied Veterans organized as a charity in North Carolina in 2009 but its license expired in August. Jerry Bass, the listed president, was arrested and charged as part of the Florida investigation.

A spokeswoman for the N.C. Attorney General’s Office said it is investigating what connection Allied Veterans may have had with the sweepstakes industry in the state.

A Winston-Salem attorney for International Internet Technologies did not return a call seeking comment.

News researcher David Raynor contributed.

Frank: 919-829-4698

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