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Meck Dems' campaign inquiry still on

The State Board of Elections says it has still not completed an investigation into the campaign finances of three Mecklenburg Democrats.

The review began last year following an Observer analysis that showed tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions to about 20 legislators were unaccounted for in campaign finance reports required by state law.

Kim Strach, deputy director of the elections board, said she and her staff are continuing to look at the campaign and bank records of Reps. Beverly Earle and Drew Saunders and Sen. Malcolm Graham.

Strach declined to comment on the details of the investigation and said she could not give a timetable for when it might be completed.

“A lot of these issues have been addressed, and we're continuing to try to resolve them,” Strach said.

In August, the Observer identified 120 contributions totaling about $80,000 over six years that were not disclosed in campaign reports. Political action committees had reported giving the money, but candidates had not reported receiving it.

Strach said that Graham's bank has taken longer than expected to provide records required for the review, through no fault of Graham.

“We're just following their lead,” Graham said, “and we want to be as cooperative as possible.”

Saunders' reports showed $15,250 in discrepancies, more than anyone else. He later amended his campaign reports and said Tuesday he is confident the board will eventually clear him of any wrongdoing.

“I know that the funds are there, so I don't have any anxiety about it,” he said.

Earle had the second highest discrepancy total, with $10,700. She also said she would wait for the elections board to finish reviewing her records.

“All my money's been deposited,” she said. “They have everything that I have.”

Graham's campaign had $9,650 in discrepancies, according to the Observer's analysis.

All three legislators had served as their own campaign treasurers before last year. They said they now employ professionals to maintain their records.

The elections board's time has been stretched in recent months by other investigations, including one involving a group that promoted Democratic judges and another that led to the conviction of former Rep. Thomas Wright, a Wilmington Democrat.

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