Donations from bribery suspect become focal point ahead of GOP primary for NC governor

Capitol Report

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – As the March primary draws near, Rep. Holly Grange is calling on fellow Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Forest to return donations from a man who is currently on trial, accused of trying to bribe a public official.

Forest is the frontrunner in the Republican primary for governor, with Grange being the only other Republican candidate on the ballot.

“Dan has said, well, money is neutral. But, this is politics. And, we know that money is not neutral in politics,” said Grange. “When someone takes money from someone who has been indicted for bribing elected officials, as an elected official that’s problematic.” 

Greg Lindberg, the founder of Eli Global, is accused of trying to bribe state Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey, who reported the matter to the FBI.

Lindberg and two associates, John Gray and John Palermo, have pleaded not guilty. The trial began last week.

Records show Lindberg donated $2.4 million to groups tied to Forest, who is not accused of any wrongdoing.

“You guys are like a dog with a dirty sock on this issue,” said Forest. “You’ve been hounding this too long. Nothing has gone on there. We’re not even part of this investigation. But, obviously, we have a primary and my opponent wants to try to make a deal out of something that doesn’t even exist.”

Forest pointed out that Lindberg also has contributed to Democrats.

The Associated Press reported current Democratic Party Chairman and former Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin received $10,000 from Lindberg in his unsuccessful 2016 re-election campaign, and that Lindberg contributed $450,000 to a committee that made commercials for Goodwin. Goodwin also is not accused of any wrongdoing.

Forest said Lindberg “never asked for anything in return. I’ve said this a million times.”

Grange said if Forest is the party’s nominee, this will continue to be an issue in the general election.

“$2.4 million is a lot of money. Dan Forest received more money than any other political candidate or political group,” she said. “He should either donate the money to charity or give it back.”

When asked if she’ll support Forest if he’s the party’s nominee, Grange said, “I will support getting rid of Roy Cooper in November.” 

Grange and Forest are looking to take on incumbent Gov. Roy Cooper (D).

Liz Doherty, a spokesperson for Cooper, wrote in an email, “Every day of this bribery trial, we are learning more and more about Dan Forest’s connections to his biggest donor Greg Lindberg. What else is Dan Forest hiding?”

Forest spoke at an event in Cary Tuesday that was headlined by Lara Trump, President Trump’s daughter-in-law and senior campaign adviser.

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