Updated April 2 at 4:25 p.m.
The Chair of the North Carolina Republican Party Robin Hayes has been indicted on charges including bribery. Durham businessman and the state’s largest political donor Greg Lindberg, along with two of his associates: John Gray and John Palermo Jr. were also indicted.
Lindberg is the chairman of financial services corporation Eli Global and owner of Global Bankers Insurance Group, both headquartered in Durham. Palermo is the former chair of the Chatham County Republican Party.
The indictment issued by the U.S. District Court for the Western District of North Carolina outlined how the defendants are accused of attempting to bribe the state’s insurance commissioner, Mike Causey. The defendants allegedly held multiple in-person meetings and phone calls to talk about “how to funnel campaign contributions to the Commission anonymously.” According to the indictment, Hayes, Lindberg and the two associates promised "millions of dollars of contributions" for "official actions favorable to GBIG."
Lindberg and his associates allegedly wanted Causey to fire or reassign the head of the department that regulated some of Lindberg's businesses.
U.S. Attorney Andrew Murray, a Trump appointee, called it a “brazen” scheme adding the Criminal Division of the Department of Justice will “use all the tools at [its] disposal” to investigate corruption.
Causey was not charged, the indictment reveals he reported the scheme to federal law enforcement.
Hayes also faces three counts of making false statements to the FBI who interviewed him in the summer of 2018, wrote Murray.
Lindberg has been under federal investigation for alleged financial crimes and for his contributions to North Carolina politicians. His attorney Anne Tompkins told WUNC via email that Lindberg: "is innocent of the charges in the indictment and we look forward to demonstrating this when we get our day in court.”
Hayes has surrendered himself to authorities. The defendants made their first appearance at a federal court in Charlotte on Monday. He had announced Monday that he would not seek re-election saying the state GOP's convention in June would be his last leading the party.
In a tweet, NCGOP Executive Director Dallas Woodhouse acknowledged the news.
We are aware of the developments today in Charlotte. We will respond shortly
— Dallas Woodhouse (@DallasWoodhouse) April 2, 2019
North Carolina Republican Party counsel Josh Howard said the party "has been cooperating with the investigation for several months."
The 73-year-old Hayes had initially decided to seek another two-year term, but in a news release Monday he said complications from recent hip surgery led him to change his mind. Hayes also said it was a "good time to pass the torch to our strong bullpen of Republican Party leaders."
Hayes served as chairman from 2011 to 2013, then returned in 2016 after the ouster of Chairman Hasan Harnett.
After serving two terms in the General Assembly, Hayes was the 8th District congressman from 1999 through 2008. He ran unsuccessfully for governor in 1996, losing to Democratic Gov. Jim Hunt.
Hayes was heavily involved in bringing the 2020 Republican Convention to Charlotte.
Monday, U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis said in the release that Hayes "has been one of the most successful NCGOP chairs ever." He went on to say, "The NCGOP has never been stronger thanks to Robin's dedicated leadership over the last decade."
A new election was ordered in the 9th Congressional District for late this year after evidence emerged that a political operative in rural Bladen County working for Republican Mark Harris' campaign last year was illegally collecting ballots.
The next party chairman will work to guide the party through a 2020 election in which races for president, governor and U.S. Senate will be on state ballots. All 170 seats in the General Assembly also will be up for re-election, with control of the 2021 redistricting at stake.
Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper won in 2016. Democrats made legislative seat gains in 2018 that ended the GOP's veto-proof control, but Republicans still hold House and Senate majorities.
The FBI is heading the investigation. Attorneys from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Charlotte and the Public Integrity Section of the Criminal Division are prosecuting the case.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.