Under the Dome

NC Sen. Fletcher Hartsell to face campaign finance hearing

Sen. Fletcher Hartsell
Sen. Fletcher Hartsell

Sen. Fletcher Hartsell, a Concord Republican, will face a Board of Elections hearing later this month to determine if he violated campaign finance laws.

On Monday, the state Board of Elections issued a notice for the hearing, which is set for June 17. The one-sentence notice does not detail the allegations against Hartsell’s campaign organization. Board spokesman Josh Lawson said Hartsell and his attorney have been invited to the hearing, but he said he could provide no further details about the case.

The senator filed campaign finance reports in 2013 that indicated he’d spent nearly $100,000 of his campaign’s money in 2011 and 2012 paying off debts on at least 10 personal credit cards.

The Board of Elections assigned an auditor in early 2013 to investigate the reports and determine if any laws were broken. Since then, few details have emerged about the inquiry.

Hartsell’s attorney, Roger Knight, said Monday that the board hasn’t provided the allegations against the senator. He stressed that all details of Hartsell’s campaign finances have been in the public record since before the probe began.

“There’s been no allegations at all that he’s failed to report anything,” Knight said. “Whether the statute gives the Board of Elections the authority to do anything after years and years is at least an open question. We filed a response to this on July 1, 2013. We have no idea what the board intends to do.”

In 2013, Hartsell told The News & Observer that he could not promise that some of the spending from his campaign, which is financed by donors, did not cover some personal expenses, which would be prohibited under state law. He could not provide detailed documents about the expenses, but said he would gather as many as he could.

“I am not going to say there is not some instance that could be characterized one way or the other,” said Hartsell, whose law practice includes a focus on governmental law. “Most of these things that I do are sort of a blended issue. I do the best job I can to keep up with it.”

Several entries on the campaign reports appear to be unrelated to his campaign, according to the 2013 News & Observer report. They include payments for $2,244 for listings in a directory of lawyers and $1,500 for a scholarship at Concord High School that is publicly listed as being provided by Hartsell and his siblings in honor of their parents. His campaign also wrote his law firm a $3,000 check with a listed purpose, in part, of “charity contribution reimbursement.”

More recently, Hartsell has faced questions about his private legal clients, at least one of whom has appeared before a Senate committee he co-chaired. He said last month he’ll will back away from his work for North Carolina Learns, which is bringing a for-profit virtual education company, K12 Inc., to the state.

Staff writers Lynn Bonner and J. Andrew Curliss contributed to this report