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Today’s non-coronavirus must read: The sordid corruption revolving around Greg Lindberg

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:

If you get a chance today, be sure to check out reporter Travis Fain’s in-depth story on the revelations that have been coming to light in and around the bribery trial and conviction of North Carolina insurance magnate Greg Lindberg.

Here are a few excerpts from “‘Tip of an iceberg’: Evidence in NC bribery case hints at more intrigue”:

Evidence released this week in the bribery trial of North Carolina’s biggest political donor hints at a wider world of intrigue than even his $5.5 million in documented political donations previously revealed.

Recorded conversations, texts and emails name-checked a who’s who of North Carolina elected officials as Greg Lindberg, who owns a slew of businesses based in Durham, pressed for a lighter regulatory touch on his insurance companies.

When Lindberg didn’t get what he wanted, he sent out the word: No more checks for anyone – not in North Carolina, not in Washington, D.C.

“Pass the word to all NC GOP leaders,” Linberg wrote, according to an email in evidence at his federal bribery trial.

Although no current elected official or candidate for office has been officially implicated in what one presumes to be an ongoing law enforcement investigation, some of the recordings made by state Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey for the FBI are certainly intriguing. Again this is from Fain’s story:

In one conversation, [Lindberg co-conspirator John] Gray told Causey that the $2.4 million Lindberg donated to benefit Lt. Gov. Dan Forest’s 2020 gubernatorial run was “not even the tip of an iceberg,” adding that he couldn’t say more.

Gray texted House Speaker Tim Moore at one point “relative to your ask” for the House Republican Caucus.

Lindberg himself referenced a dark money group backing Gov. Roy Cooper, breaking down its basic structure as he pitched Causey on a covert way to take campaign cash.

And then there’s this excerpt that summarizes Lindberg’s displeasure that he didn’t seem to be getting his way in efforts to bribe Causey in order to get rid of a disfavored Insurance Department staffer:

By mid-June 2018, the new committees were set up and funded, and a $10,000 down payment had flowed from the state GOP and into Causey’s campaign.

But by month’s end, Lindberg had had enough of Causey’s promises and delays. Obusek hadn’t been moved out of her job, and Lindberg felt the Department of Insurance was lingering on company exams, threatening expansion plans.

“We are shutting down donations until we see some improvement at NC DOI staff,” he emailed Rod Perkins, who was then the lead lobbyist for Global Bankers.

Perkins wrote back to confirm, wanting to make good on promised donations at the federal level: $50,000 to a PAC linked to then-U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan, another $50,000 for a group tied to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and other five-figure donations to national Republican and Democratic groups. The email thread also mentions the governor’s and insurance commissioner’s races in Kansas, a Virginia congressman and former Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s run for U.S. Senate.

“We aren’t writing ANY more checks to anyone until we see improvement at NC DOI,” Lindberg replied. “Pass the word to all NC GOP leaders.”

Fain also reports on the various conversations and contributions the Lindberg team had and made to Congressman Mark Walker and the House Republican Caucus fund, which House Speaker Tim Moore controls.

The bottom line: The lengthy story is worth several minutes of your time this morning. Even if it leads to no additional indictments or convictions, the Lindberg saga is a profoundly sad commentary on the way big-money modern politics works and a powerful argument for a renewed effort to bring about public financing of political campaigns in our state.

Click here to read the full story.

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