Updated: Wednesday at 10:31 a.m.
North Carolina GOP Chairman Robin Hayes was one of four people indicted in connection with an investigation involving donations made to the state Republican Party.
Hayes, a former five-term North Carolina congressman, surrendered himself to authorities and appeared in Charlotte’s federal court Tuesday, the same day the federal grand jury's indictment was unsealed. Hayes and three others were indicted on charges related to fraud and attempting to bribe North Carolina Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey.
Hayes remains in his position as the state GOP chair as of Wednesday. The 73-year-old announced on Monday that he would not be running for re-election and would step down in June, citing health concerns. The state Republican Party has made no indication that he will step down before then.
The indictment says Commissioner Causey contacted federal law enforcement officials in January 2018 about “political contributions and requests” from two of the men who were indicted, Greg Lindberg and John Gray. Causey then agreed to cooperate with the federal government, which launched its investigation, according to the indictment.
Lindberg, of Durham, is the owner of Global Bankers Insurance Group. Lindberg has donated large amounts of money to Republican groups in recent years. He has also contributed to Democrats.
The indictment says that Lindberg and others funneled campaign contributions to Causey in an attempt to get the commissioner to remove a senior deputy commissioner who was overseeing a state investigation into Global Bankers Insurance Group.
In North Carolina, there is a limit on how much an individual can give to a candidate. That’s $5,400 per election.
The indictment says Lindberg used the North Carolina Republican Party as a workaround by giving money to the party and a new independent organization, the North Carolina Growth and Prosperity Committee account. The indictment states that Hayes and the others devised a scheme to funnel campaign contributions to Causey’s re-election campaign for commissioner in an effort to bribe him.
Hayes, Lindberg and the others had in-person meetings and telephone conversations with Causey to discuss how best to anonymously make the contributions, according to the indictment.
Both Gray and another person indicted, John Palermo, worked for Lindberg.
Here’s the order of events, according to the indictment:
In February 2018, Causey met with Lindberg and Gray in a private conference room at Concord Regional Airport. Before the meeting, Gray told the commissioner the meeting would be secret, and they planned to enter the conference room separately.
During the meeting, Lindberg complained to Causey about the senior deputy commissioner. Lindberg and Gray suggested to Causey that he remove the senior deputy, and replace her with Palermo.
Soon after, Palmero met with Causey at a restaurant in Chapel Hill. Palmero told Causey that Lindberg would offer him a large exit package to make up for having to earn a smaller salary if he went to work for the state.
A month later, the group met again, this time at Statesville Regional Airport. The indictment says that Causey then asked to speak with Lindberg alone.
The indictment says that Causey asked Lindberg: “What’s in it for me? What can you do to help that’s not gonna be under the radar screen.”
Lindberg said he would form an independent expenditure committee to support the commissioner’s re-election and that he would fund it himself with between $1 million and $2 million.
The men then later discussed funneling money to the state Republican Party, as well as a new independent committee that would support Causey.
In May 2018, Hayes and Causey spoke about the arrangement on the telephone. Hayes talked about the financial arrangement, and then Hayes brought up the personnel change that Lindberg had requested. Hayes suggested moving people around to make sure “things got done that needed to get done.”
The deal called for Lindberg to give the state Republican Party $500,000, which would then be re-directed to Causey’s campaign.
At one point, Hayes is worried that such a large contribution to Causey’s campaign will seem unusual, especially with the election so far away. But he says he’ll donate the money anyway: “Alright, I’l’ get ‘er done.”
The indictment lists five payments that were part of the scheme. On June 11, 2018, Lindberg deposited $1.5 million into the North Carolina Growth and Prosperity Committee account. In June and July of that year, the N.C. political party donated $250,000 into Causey’s campaign account.
Hayes was interviewed by the FBI about the campaign contributions in August 2018. Hayes said “absolutely not” when asked by agents whether Lindberg had any expectations for what would happen in exchange for the donation.
Hayes was also charged with three counts of lying to the FBI.
Correction: An earlier version of this story stated that the limit on how much an individual can give to a candidate was $5,200. That was incorrect. The limit is $5,400.