Wake County DA takes a deeper look into sweepstakes campaign donations
The Wake County DA, Lorrin Freeman, is asking the the SBI to help her take another look at hundreds of thousands of dollars in political contributions by key figures in the sweepstakes gambling industry. An initial inquiry by the Board of Elections hadn't found any criminal wrong doing, but admitted they were limited in scope.
Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman confirmed Monday that she sent a letter to the SBI on Oct. 6 asking for assistance with an investigation.
Freeman said she thought a second look into the matter was important for several reasons – to find out whether any criminal activity occurred during the elections three years ago and to assure the public that if violations occurred, they would be prosecuted.
Investigators would determine if there were potential violations of state ethics, lobbying and campaign finance laws such as illegal bundling of contributions.
The probe would take at least several months, Freeman said.
“Our hope is, certainly, if any criminal violations occurred, to find them,” Freeman said. “There might not be any. But we hope this will give the public confidence in the process.”
The state Board of Elections began looking into Burns and the sweepstakes industry in 2013 after Democracy North Carolina, a nonprofit organization based in Durham, filed a complaint. Burns and his wife were among the top campaign donors in 2012. Their contributions came at a time when the video sweepstakes industry was lobbying heavily to overturn a state ban on the games.
The following year, Burns faced federal racketeering charges and pleaded no contest to lesser charges.
The Board of Elections launched a protracted investigation into nearly $700,000 in questionable spending by the industry, and in July it issued a report that found no violations of state campaign finance laws.
Though the elections board did not refer the report for prosecution, members made it clear that the board’s scope and legal tools were limited and that there could be room for a deeper look.