Politics & Government

NC senator settles investigation into his campaign loan

Sen. Hise: ‘We have reached a point that the executive branch is challenging the constitutional authority of the general assembly’

VIDEO: NC State Sen. Ralph Hise speaks during a state Senate committee hearing on whether to subpoena Cabinet secretary Larry Hall after he failed to appear for the third time at a confirmation hearing that the Cooper administration contends viola
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VIDEO: NC State Sen. Ralph Hise speaks during a state Senate committee hearing on whether to subpoena Cabinet secretary Larry Hall after he failed to appear for the third time at a confirmation hearing that the Cooper administration contends viola

State elections officials and state Sen. Ralph Hise have settled a long-pending complaint alleging he violated campaign finance laws between 2013 and 2016.

Hise’s campaign committee will pay the state elections board $4,000 to reimburse the cost of investigating the allegations, and pay $500 into a civil penalty and forfeiture fund that helps fund schools.

“I appreciate the board’s staff for its fairness and professionalism,” Hise said in a statement released by his campaign. “After cooperating fully to resolve bookkeeping mistakes and make clear our campaign’s expenditures were completely legitimate, I’m pleased the facts won the day and that my family can move on.”

He was accused of loaning his campaign $50,000 but repaying himself $60,000 over a three-year period. He was also accused of failing to report more than $9,000 from nine political action committees and of failing to give complete information about contributors in his financial disclosure statements.

Hise submitted amended financial disclosure reports earlier this year in response to the state board’s investigation.

Hise is a four-term Republican from Spruce Pine who represents six mountain counties. He has key roles in the Senate on elections matters such as redistricting and on health care issues.

The state Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement approved the settlement unanimously Tuesday.

The settlement doesn’t go into details about what the elections board’s investigation revealed. Greg Flynn, the Raleigh man who brought the complaint, and David Wheeler, who lost to Hise in the general election in November, criticized the settlement in their comments to the board.

Flynn’s complaint questioned about $20,000 in campaign funds. He said the agreement doesn’t provide guidance about what is appropriate for candidates, and called Hise’s campaign finances “a strange and unique system of accounting.”

Wheeler criticized the process and the outcome of the investigation.

“I’m not trying to rehash my election with him, I just think you’re setting a really bad example … allowing a sitting senator to amend amend amend,” Wheeler told the board.

Tempers flared after Wheeler accused Hise of embezzlement. That brought his campaign committee’s attorney, Steven Long, to his feet to accuse Wheeler of “making false statements.”

Board member Joshua Malcolm of Pembroke singled out Flynn for his work compiling the complaint. Flynn was a Democratic appointee to the Wake County Board of Elections in March.

“It’s people like you that need to keep their eyes on the people in the big fancy building down the street,” said Malcolm, a Democrat, referring to the Legislative Building. “I hope the action of this board today encourages other folks to do the same.”

Hise told state elections officials in March 2017 that his campaign treasurer, who is his mother, wasn’t able to help him look into the accusations. He asked for more time so a Republican Party financial expert could conduct an internal audit, The News & Observer reported at the time.

The N.C. Insider reported that Hise’s mother was in the hospital fighting cancer.

Craig Jarvis is in his seventh year covering politics for The N&O. He has been a reporter and editor here covering crime, legal affairs, general assignment, arts and real estate. Contact him at cjarvis@newsobserver.com or (919) 829-4576.
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