Hearing Set Into Firm's Political Contributions
BY DAVID SINCLAIR
The State Board of Elections will hold a hearing next month to determine whether a Southern Pines engineering firm headed by a former state senator broke campaign finance laws.
The Dec. 9 hearing comes in response to a complaint filed by state Republican Party Chairman Tom Fetzer, who said political donations by employees of Hobbs Upchurch and Associates look suspicious.
The engineering firm is headed by former Sen. Fred Hobbs and David Upchurch. Hobbs Upchurch employees gave more than $70,000 over the past decade to outgoing Senate President Pro Tempore Marc Basnight, and both partners also contributed to Basnight and other political campaigns, according to state records.
State elections officials said records show more than $148,000 in donations to various campaigns from people tied to Hobbs Upchurch, and board members want to determine if Hobbs has funneled money to others to get around contribution limits.
The Pilot was unable to reach Hobbs on Wednesday for comment. His firm acknowledged in June that it was cooperating with the State Board of Elections, which had launched a criminal investigation into its campaign contributions.
"Hobbs Upchurch & Associates, P.A. has fully and completely cooperated with the State Board of Elections," said a statement issued at the time. "Until the board's inquiries are completed, Hobbs Upchurch & Associates, P.A., or its employees cannot comment further on the matter."
The firm's website has asserted that Hobbs Upchurch helped secure millions of dollars in grants for various infrastructure projects across the state over the years.
Elections officials revealed in June that they were conducting a criminal investigation. The state elections board can decide to hold a public hearing as part of gathering evidence. It also has the option to resolve the matter with a rebuke, with fines or by referring the case to a criminal prosecutor.
Basnight has said he has no reason to question the Hobbs Upchurch donations, adding that he would forfeit any money that the elections board determines to be improper.
Contact David Sinclair at email@example.com.
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