State Investigates Political Contributions of S.P. Firm's Employees
BY FLORENCE GILKESON
Hobbs Upchurch & Associates is cooperating with the North Carolina State Board of Elections in an investigation of campaign finance contributions.
A statement issued by a company representative says that the Southern Pines engineering firm, along with other contributors, has been contacted concerning these inquiries.
"Hobbs Upchurch & Associates, P.A. has fully and completely cooperated with the State Board of Elections," according to the statement. "Until the board's inquires are completed, Hobbs Upchurch & Associates, P.A., or its employees cannot comment further on the matter."
The statement was released Wednesday following calls by The Pilot to the firm's Southern Pines office. Company leaders Fred Hobbs and David Upchurch were not available at the time.
Hobbs is a former state senator and prominent Democratic Party leader. He was a delegate to the National Democratic Convention in 2004.
Reports from state sources say that employees of the engineering firm donated more than $70,000 over the last 10 years to the campaign of state Sen. Marc Basnight, a Dare County Democrat and Senate president pro tempore.
"As previously reported, the North Carolina State Board of Elections is making inquiries into the donations and expenditures of several political campaigns, including former Republican gubernatorial candidate Pat McCrory, Gov. Beverly Perdue and Senate President Pro Tem Marc Basnight," the statement said.
State law bars one individual from making a campaign contribution under someone else's name. It also bars corporations from making donations to candidates.
Wilmington businessman Rusty Carter pleaded guilty last month to misdemeanor charges of making illegal contributions through his employees. He was fined $5,000 and sentenced to one year of probation. As a condition of probation, he was barred from making political donations for two years.
Basnight forfeited $84,000 received from Carter employees, and Perdue forfeited $64,000.
Hobbs Upchurch has won more than $570 million in grants from state and federal sources, such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the North Carolina Rural Center and the state Clean Water Management Trust Fund, according to a story on the website of Raleigh television station WRAL.
Basnight told the station that he has no reason to question donations from Hobbs Upchurch employees but said he would forfeit any funds determined by the state board to be improper.
Contact Florence Gilkeson by e-mail at email@example.com.
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