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State GOP chairman charged with attempt to bribe insurance commissioner

Posted On: Apr. 2, 2019 3:09 PM CST

North Carolina

The chairman of the North Carolina Republican Party, an owner of an insurer and two others were charged with corruption in a federal criminal indictment unsealed on Tuesday that alleges they attempted to bribe the state’s insurance commissioner, Mike Causey.

The attempted bribery scheme, which Mr. Causey reported to law enforcement authorities, began in 2017 shortly after the commissioner was elected, the indictment said.

According to the indictment, Robin Hayes, chairman of the North Carolina Republican Party, Greg E. Lindberg, chairman of investment firm Eli Global LLC and owner of Global Bankers Insurance Group, John Gray, a consultant for Lindberg, and John Palermo, vice president of special projects at Eli Global and chairman of the Chatham County Republican Party, conspired to bribe the commissioner by offering “millions of dollars in campaign contributions,” among other things.

In return, the four men sought for the commissioner to replace a senior insurance department official, whom they believed was curbing efforts to expand Mr. Lindberg’s business in other states, with Mr. Palermo.

Mr. Hayes, who served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1999 to 2009, facilitated the transfer of $250,000 from funds previously contributed to the state's Republican Party by Mr. Lindberg.

In a statement, Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the U.S. Justice Department’s Criminal Division, said: “The indictment unsealed today outlines a brazen bribery scheme in which Greg Lindberg and his co-conspirators allegedly offered hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions in exchange for official action that would benefit Lindberg’s business interests.”

“Thanks to the voluntary reporting of the North Carolina Commissioner of Insurance, we have uncovered an alleged scheme to violate our federal public corruption laws,” added U.S. Attorney Andrew Murray for the Western District of North Carolina in the statement.

The defendants made their initial appearance in federal court in Charlotte on Tuesday.

The North Carolina Republican Party said in a statement Tuesday: “Early this morning, the North Carolina Republican Party was made aware of several indictments surrounding the conduct of a major donor to both major political parties and two of his associates. The party has been cooperating with the investigation for several months, including staff members providing statements and responding to various document requests. The party, which has its day to day operations managed by professional staff under the direction of the NCGOP Central Committee, remains fully operational and focused on its mission at hand.”