Updated April 3 at 1:48 p.m.
North Carolina's Republican Party chairman is giving up party control as he faces criminal charges that he and a major donor tried to bribe the state's top insurance regulator.
The state GOP said Wednesday that Robin Hayes will give up operational control to a regional party leader from western North Carolina. Aubrey Woodard has headed the Republican organization in the 11th Congressional District.
"In the best interest of the party, I make this announcement today and will let our respected officers lead on a temporary basis until our regularly planned party elections this June,” said Hayes in a state GOP press release.
Hayes will keep the title of chairman until a new election for the post in June.
Hayes, investment firm founder Greg Lindberg and two Lindberg associates are facing federal bribery and wire fraud charges after prosecutors say they sought to funnel up to $2 million in campaign funds to the state's insurance commissioner money. Prosecutors say Lindberg wanted special treatment for his insurance companies.
The four men have all pleaded not guilty.
Speaker of the House Tim Moore said he was unaware of the pending indictments.
"I mean all of this it's just caught all of us off guard. I mean I found out about it when it was in the media, so we're still finding out information just like everyone else," said Moore.
Updated April 3 at 2 a.m.
North Carolina GOP Chairman Robin Hayes and investment firm founder Greg Lindberg are among four people facing federal bribery and wire fraud charges.
In federal indictments, prosecutors say that in a series of clandestine meetings in closed restaurants and small airport terminals, the pressured insurance magnate and his associates offered North Carolina's insurance commissioner money for special treatment.
Hayes also was charged with lying to the FBI. The 73-year-old former congressman announced Monday that he wouldn't seek re-election as party chairman, citing health problems.
Lindberg — largely unknown politically until his contributions started flowing heavily in 2017 — has given more than $5 million to North Carolina candidates, party committees and independent expenditure groups.
The four defendants appeared Tuesday before a federal magistrate.
Dave DeWitt and Lisa Philip contributed to this story.