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Politics

NC Insurance Commissioner Causey Continues Testimony In Bribery Trial, Secret Tapes Played

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N.C. Department of Insurance

North Carolina Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey testified Thursday for a second day in the bribery trial of Durham businessman Greg Lindberg and two associates. Jurors heard secret recordings Causey made while cooperating with the FBI.

On the secret recordings, Causey says he’s concerned about Lindberg’s plan to replace a senior deputy at the Department of Insurance with one of Lindberg’s hand-picked associates, John Palermo. Lindberg had complained to Causey that his company was being unfairly scrutinized by a deputy at the department, Jackie Obusek.

Causey tells Lindberg: “I would hire him in a heartbeat … but it would raise so many red flags.” He adds, “Are you and me going to end up on the front page?”

Prosecutors say that in exchange for removing the senior deputy, Lindberg, Palermo and associate John Grey planned to funnel $2 million in campaign contributions to Causey’s 2020 reelection campaign.

Defense attorneys say that Causey had entrapped and ensared Lindberg as political payback, because Lindberg had supported the previous insurance commissioner, Democrat Wayne Goodwin.

On the tape, Lindberg agrees with Causey that hiring Palermo would raise suspicions.

He tells Causey: “Let’s go hire someone else that we approve of … but doesn’t have red flags.”

After playing the tape, prosecutors asked Causey if would be typical for a company that’s being regulated to hire someone who would be regulating them.

"No," Causey said.

On another recording, Causey and Grey discuss the money earmarked for Causey’s reelection campaign, that prosecutors said was a favor for installing a new senior deputy.

Grey says he will have Robin Hayes, who was then chair of the state Republican Party, earmark $200,000 to Causey’s campaign. And Grey says he will spend at least $1 million on an independent expenditure committee that will support Causey.

Causey is scheduled to testify again Friday, weather permitting.

Go behind the headlines with WFAE political reporter Steve Harrison in his weekly newsletter, Inside Politics. Steve will provide insight about and analysis of local and statewide politics. Readers will gain an understanding of political news on the horizon and why it matters. 

While you're at it, go ahead and take a listen to our companion podcast: “Inside Politics: The RNC in Charlotte,” hosted by Steve Harrison and Lisa Worf.