North Carolina state elections officials referred a Mecklenburg County lawmaker’s case to prosecutors Wednesday after finding that he failed to report more than $141,000 in contributions and expenditures, including nearly $25,000 in ATM withdrawals.
The state elections board unanimously found that Democratic Rep. Rodney Moore failed to report the contributions over at least seven years. Investigators had to subpoena his bank records after Moore failed to provide them.
Moore, a former Democratic leader in the House, did not attend the hearing in Raleigh. He was defeated in the May primary by Nasif Majeed.
In an email to the Observer, he said he was out of town. “Don’t have any information on why they took the action they took,” he wrote.
According to elections officials, their investigation found:
▪ In one bank account, Moore disclosed 126 contributions but not 65 others. The unreported contributions amounted to $36,605.
▪ In the same account, he reported 102 expenditures but not another 1,689 that amounted to $95,753.
▪ There were at least 284 cash withdrawals that investigators say amounted to $24,676.
▪ All together, Moore failed to report $141,107 in contributions and expenditures since 2010.
In their report, elections board officials claimed Moore failed to disclose transactions, filed false reports and obstructed the board’s audit of his reports. They referred the case to Mecklenburg District Attorney Spencer Merriweather.
“We do have these campaign finance laws in place to hold the people we elect accountable,” said Bob Phillips, executive director of Common Cause N.C. “It’s troubling when there’s violations of any magnitude.”
The Observer first reported missing contributions last November. At the time, it found state records showing at least 17 unreported contributions amounting to $9,450 from political action committees.
The figures come from a public records request with the N.C. State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement and an Observer analysis that checked dozens of PAC reports against Moore’s.
Asked about the discrepancies at the time, he said, “I guess I’m just a bad bookkeeper or something... I’m working with my treasurer to take care of it. The best thing I can do is try to work ... to clear it up.”
Last March, Moore said he’d hired a lawyer amid the ongoing investigation.
Moore, who describes himself as a small business consultant, represented District 99, a majority Democratic and African-American district in northeast Mecklenburg County. He was first elected in 2010. Over the years Moore has filed financial reports late, incomplete or with inconsistencies.
Until November, Moore was the Democrats’ deputy House whip. House Minority Leader Darren Jackson of Raleigh said Moore stepped down from leadership until questions about his finances were resolved.
Many legislators face fines for more minor campaign finance law violations. But last year former state Sen. Fletcher Hartsell of Concord was sentenced to eight months in federal prison after admitting to improperly spending and reporting campaign finances. He used campaign money for personal expenses including haircuts, shoe repairs and membership to the Carolina Club at UNC-Chapel Hill.
In 2007 former state House Speaker Jim Black of Matthews was sentenced to more than five years in prison for illegally taking campaign cash from chiropractors.
Phillips said one solution could be paying lawmakers more. Most members get an annual salary of $13,951 and a monthly expense allowance of $559. He said higher salaries could mitigate any temptations.