A spokesman for the North Carolina State Board of Elections has countered the assertion by state Representative and friend of the Rant Mike Stone (R-Tenn.) that he was advised to “not touch” a campaign contribution from an indicted video poker executive.
Stone on Wednesday finally offered an explanation as to why he kept a $4,000 campaign contribution from Chase Burns, telling the Sanford Herald that the North Carolina Board of Elections had advised him to leave the money in his account.
“In the last correspondence with the state Board of Elections, they instructed us to hold onto this money and not touch it,” Stone told the Herald in Thursday’s article about the matter. Progress NC Action, a left-leaning public policy group, had held a press conference that day asking Stone to donate the money to one of several educational efforts in the district.
It was something of a puzzling explanation, given that other high-profile North Carolina politicians (including Governor Pat McCrory, state senate President Phil Berger, and House Speaker Thom Tillis) divested themselves of donations from Burns several months ago.
Additionally, there was no record of any written correspondence between Stone’s campaign committee and the state elections board about the matter, at least none that is viewable under Stone’s campaign activity on the board’s website.
Joshua Lawson, a spokesman for the North Carolina State Board of Elections, confirmed on Friday that there had been telephone correspondence between Stone and the board. Lawson said Burns’ donations are the subject of a probe by the State Bureau of Investigation, and that if they’re found to have been made illegally, anybody in receipt of those donations would be required to pay the same amount into a state fund dedicated to education, regardless of whether the campaign committee had donated the same amount of money to charity. But Lawson stressed the state board does not advise candidates whether they should retain or donate contributions that have not been determined to be illegal.
“I have been informed that staff discussed the process for remittance of wrongly obtained donations with Mr. Stone. Donations to third parties do not absolve committees of a statutory requirement that funds remit to the state. Our staff did not advise Mr. Stone to retain the donation,” Lawson wrote in an email on Friday.
So does Stone suspect the Burns donation could be ruled illegal and that he’ll have to remit it to the state? If that becomes the case and he had donated the money to charity, he’d just be out $4,000. Political campaigns cost money, the Rant gets it. But when the truth is easily verfiable, it usually pays to stick with it. Instead, it looks like he tried to have his cake and eat it too.