The N.C. Democratic Party has called on state Labor Commissioner Cherie Berry to return campaign contributions from companies she regulates.
That follows a story in Sunday's Observer that reported Berry has collected at least half of her contributions from executives and managers of companies her Labor department has inspected.
The Observer's story also found that Berry's contributors got bigger-than-average reductions in fines resulting from workplace safety inspections.
“Our workers' safety should not be compromised by Cherie Berry's need for campaign cash,” said N.C. Democratic Party Chairman Jerry Meek.
Berry, a Republican running for her third term, has said there is no connection between campaign contributions and decisions made by the Labor department.
Berry said she has participated in settlement negotiations regarding fines just once during her eight-year tenure.
N.C. OSHA officials don't consult with her about reducing fines, she said.
She contended in a statement Friday that Meek “owes the people of North Carolina an apology.”
“He has headed the most corrupt political party in our history and now to make such a claim is outrageous,” she stated, referring to former House Speaker Jim Black, who has been convicted of bribery.
Berry's Democratic opponent, Mary Fant Donnan, has also accepted some campaign donations from companies she would regulate as Labor commissioner. Less than 15 percent of the money Donnan collected from individuals came from managers and executives of such companies.