Here’s what happened and the key players involved in the NCGOP chairman bribery and corruption charges
Last week’s indictments of North Carolina’s Republican chairman and a top party donor on Monday already have become the focus of a new ad targeting the GOP’s leading candidate for governor.
American Bridge, a group allied with Democrats, launched a statewide campaign with a 47-second digital ad targeting GOP Lt. Gov. Dan Forest.
The ad is the first to highlight the scandal that has seen the indictments of state GOP Chair Robin Hayes, donor Greg Lindberg and two associates. And it may not be the last.
“Republicans used Nancy Pelosi as the standard bearer of Democratic liberalism in a fairly moderate state (in 2018),” said political scientist Michael Bitzer of Catawba College. “If Democrats can tie the brand of Republicanism to these allegations, then that’s just as effective.”
The Bridge ad features images of Forest with Lindberg, one of four people indicted on federal charges of conspiracy and bribery in an alleged attempt to influence state Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey, a Republican. The ad shows news reports of Forest describing them as friends and “good guys.”
Lindberg gave more than $2.4 million to political action committees that back Forest, according to campaign finance records. That includes $1 million to the Truth and Prosperity PAC and $1.4 million to the N.C. Republican Council of State Committee, which Forest chairs. Forest has raised money for the Truth and Prosperity PAC.
Hal Weatherman, chair of the Dan Forest for Governor Exploratory Committee, said the ad takes Forest’s comments out of context. While Forest acknowledged the men are friends, he went on to call the indictments “very troubling” and said “if laws were broken, then justice should be served.”
“More troubling than Dan’s quote being taken out of context,” Weatherman said, “is the fact that The Charlotte Observer is asking us to comment on anything put out by American Bridge, a George Soros funded far left Super PAC who describes their mission as: ‘to keep the Republican Party unpopular in order to lay the foundation for Democrats to retake power’.”
Records show he and employees gave thousands to then-Democratic Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin in 2016, the year Goodwin narrowly lost to Causey. Goodwin went on to work as a consultant for two Lindberg companies after he left office, according to a News & Observer story. And in 2018 Lindberg gave $750,000 to the Democratic Party, which Goodwin chairs.
The indictments come on the heels of an election fraud allegations that caused the State Board of Elections to take the unprecedented step of calling for a new election in the 9th Congressional District.
Democratic consultant Thomas Mills has said he believes the scandals will at some point reach a critical mass “that starts to stick” on all Republican candidates. And one national Democratic strategist said there’s a “high likelihood” that GOP congressional candidates will see ads related to the twin episodes.
But GOP consultant Chris Sinclair, who works for 9th District hopeful Leigh Brown, said he doesn’t believe the indictments will tarnish candidates in the 9th District.
“Those are isolated individual acts, and it’s not like they haven’t happened on both sides of the aisle,” he said. “You can’t say every Republican running for office is corrupt. And you can’t extrapolate what’s happening with a few individuals and run with that against every Republican.”