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Today’s must read: More details emerge on the Forest-Lindberg connection

Greg Lindberg cuts a ribbon at the opening of the Durham headquarters of Global Bankers Insurance Group in 2017 alongside Lt. Gov. Dan Forest. Image: https://www.greglindberg.com/

If you haven’t already done so, be sure to check out the WRAL.com news story by state government reporters Travis Fain and Tyler Dukes about the information that’s come to light in the Greg Lindberg bribery scandal. As you’ll recall, Lindberg and his employee John Gray are accused of attempting to bribe state Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey in a scandal in which former state Republican Party Chairman Robin Hayes has already plead guilty.

Now comes Fain and Duke’s report that Lt. Gov. Dan Forest’s top aide was the man who first sought to bring Lindberg and Causey together — a development that was soon followed by Lindberg making massive campaign contributions to Forest. This is from the story:

Lt. Gov. Dan Forest’s chief of staff reached out to Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey’s office in early August 2017, seeking a meeting for two men who would later be indicted and accused of trying to bribe Causey.

At the time, the state Department of Insurance was reviewing three insurance companies Lindberg owned.

Within a month of the reach out, more than $50,000 flowed into Forest’s campaign coffers from associates of Greg Lindberg and John Gray, at least in part because Lindberg hosted a fundraiser at his home. Lindberg himself donated $400,000 that month to a second political committee that the lieutenant governor controls and that accepts unlimited donations.

By the end of that year, Lindberg had deposited $2.4 million in political committees backing Forest’s current run for governor. Forest put out a press release at the time, trumpeting his ability to bring in such a haul.

Weatherman has said that his actions in arranging the meeting were, in effect, routine and that he was just taking action to help a “friend” (Gray), but as the story concludes:

It’s not unusual for state insurance commissioners to meet with executives at the companies they regulate. Causey, who was elected in the fall of 2016, has said he had a get-to-know-you meeting with Lindberg and his team in late June 2017, not long after he had refunded $10,000 in campaign donations from Lindberg and his wife.

But the federal indictment states that Gray also asked North Carolina Republican Party Chairman Robin Hayes that August to schedule a meeting between the commissioner, Lindberg and Gray. Hayes was indicted last March as well, and he pleaded guilty in October to lying to investigators.

Forest has not returned the millions that Lindberg contributed to his efforts.

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