RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — An Oklahoma man facing racketeering charges in Florida over alleged illegal gambling operations gave more than $230,000 to North Carolina political campaigns in the past two years, including to more than 60 legislators, a group said Monday.
Democracy North Carolina, a campaign finance advocacy group, calculated the amount attributed to Chase Burns of Anadarko, Okla., during the 2011-12 election cycle after reviewing both electronic and paper campaign filings with the State Board of Elections.
The group said it found donations attributed to Burns going to 63 current House and Senate members, as well as $55,000 combined to the North Carolina Republican Senate Caucus and Republican Senate Caucus within the state Republican Party. Burns was the No. 1 individual donor to state legislators during the last election cycle, Democracy North Carolina said.
The total amount is $75,000 more than what was reported when Burns was arrested last week, based on campaign finance data posted on the state elections board web site. Data from paper campaign finance reports filed by candidate committees often are delayed in getting posted online and scrutiny of the reports are cumbersome, group executive director Bob Hall said.
"We went through the legislators' disclosure reports, one by one, to determine how much he donated," Hall said in a release.
Burns is accused of owning parlors operated by a purported Florida-based charity called Allied Veterans of the World that Florida officials say had earned about $300 million from illegal gambling. But only a small percentage of the earnings actually went to veterans, according to authorities.
Burns' company is called International Internet Technologies. Gov. Pat McCrory used to work for a Charlotte law firm called Moore & Van Allen that lobbied for the company until last week, when news of the arrests of Burns and others were disclosed.
McCrory, who is not a lawyer and has never filed as a lobbyist, said late last week he had no contact with Burns, didn't know who he was and never performed work for Burns' company. Moore & Van Allen said it had worked for International Internet Technologies on legislative strategy and media outreach.
McCrory's campaign received $8,000 from Burns and his wife last year. The campaign disgorged itself of the money last week by donating it to a Durham homeless ministry. House Democrats said they would donate amounts equal to Burns' donations to charities that help North Carolina veterans.
House Speaker Thom Tillis, R-Mecklenburg, whose campaign received $6,500 from Burns, also said Monday his campaign also would donate an identical amount to a military charity. Senate leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, said in an interview Monday evening he would donate the $8,000 his campaign received from Burns to a yet-to-be-determined charity.
Video sweepstakes companies and parlor operators in North Carolina have been trying to keep their industry legal in the state despite the General Assembly passing several laws to ban the games.
International Internet Technologies was a plaintiff in a case before the state Supreme Court in which it challenged the constitutionality of a recent ban. The justices upheld the ban in December. A favorable ruling for machine operators would have opened the door to legitimize the industry through state regulation. The General Assembly would write any laws to legalize the games.
Hall said his group's review of donations showed apparent reporting mistakes. In one report, Burns was listed as a "director of public affairs" for Moore & Van Allen and company lobbyist Tom Sevier also was identified. In another report, Burns' address was listed as the lobbying firm's Triangle-area office.
Moore & Van Allen spokesman Brian Nick said Monday that "on a few occasions a (Moore & Van Allen) employee delivered a campaign contribution to a candidate" on behalf of Burns because he lived in Oklahoma. It's lawful for a lobbyist to forward a contribution check to a legislator, but they can't "bundle" contributions — collect several checks and give them to a single candidate.
One $2,500 donation was attributed to International Internet Technologies, Democracy North Caroilna said. Business donations to candidate committees are illegal.