North Carolina GOP chairman indicted on bribery charges

A federal grand jury indicted the chairman of the North Carolina Republican Party and three others on bribery charges Tuesday, law enforcement officials announced.

Robin Hayes, the state GOP chair, and Greg Lindberg, a businessman and wealthy donor, are accused, along with two others, of engaging in a scheme to bribe North Carolina state Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey. Causey has not been charged.

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The indictment, unsealed Tuesday, alleges that Lindberg, Hayes and two Lindberg associates, John Gray and John Palermo, sought to use independent expenditure accounts and improper campaign contributions to bribe Causey to make official decisions favorable to Lindberg’s business.

According to the indictment, the four defendants offered Causey millions of dollars in campaign contributions, among other things, in exchange for the removal of his senior deputy commissioner.

Causey reported concerns about the political contributions to federal authorities and agreed to cooperate with an investigation into the matter, officials said.

“Bribery of public officials at any level of government undermines confidence in our political system,” Brian Benczkowski, the assistant U.S. attorney general for the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, said in a statement. “The Criminal Division will use all the tools at our disposal – including the assistance of law-abiding public officials – to relentlessly investigate and prosecute corruption wherever we find it.”

Hayes also allegedly lied to FBI agents about his involvement in the scheme, particularly about directing Lindberg’s contributions to the state GOP into Causey’s reelection campaign, according to law enforcement officials.

An attorney for Lindberg said he was not guilty of any wrongdoing.

“Greg Lindberg is innocent of the charges in the indictment and we look forward to demonstrating this when we get our day in court," Lindberg's attorney, Anne Tompkins, said.

Hayes has surrendered himself to authorities and made an initial appearance at a U.S. courthouse in Charlotte on Tuesday, WBTV reported.

News of the indictment came a day after Hayes, a former U.S. congressman, announced that he would not seek reelection as chair of the North Carolina Republican Party at its convention this summer.

North Carolina Republican Party Counsel Josh Howard said in a statement that the party has been cooperating with the investigation for several months.

"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," Howard said.

The indictment is the latest controversy to rock North Carolina Republicans. Earlier this year, state election officials ordered a new election in the state's 9th Congressional District after a lengthy investigation into an alleged ballot-tampering scheme.

That scheme was allegedly led by a contractor for Mark HarrisMark HarrisGOP super PAC drops new TV ad in contested NC House race North Carolina elections chair resigns after joke relating cows to women NC operative charged with obstruction of justice, perjury over alleged ballot scheme MORE, the Republican candidate in the race. Harris has since bowed out of the new election. He has repeatedly denied personal wrongdoing.

Updated at 4:19 p.m.