Politics & Government

Ex-Rep. Rodney Moore indicted on charges involving unreported campaign contributions

Authorities say he failed to disclose tens of thousands of dollars in political contributions and campaign expenses, including money for movie tickets, dry cleaning and car washes.

This week former Democratic Rep. Rodney Moore was indicted on nine felony counts involving filing false campaign reports after investigators found that he failed to report more than $141,000 in campaign contributions and expenditures.

His former campaign manager, Tammy Neal, was indicted on a charge of felony obstruction of justice, according to the Mecklenburg County District Attorney’s office.

No court dates have been set. It’s unclear what the penalties would be.

Moore, who lost his re-election bid last year, is a former Democratic House leader who represented a northeast Mecklenburg district. Neither he nor Neal could be reached Tuesday.

Kim Strach, executive director of North Carolina’s State Board of Elections, warned candidates not to use their campaigns as “personal piggy banks.”

“We hope these prosecutions highlight the importance of accurate campaign finance disclosure,” she said in a statement. “Voters have a right to know how candidates are raising and spending campaign cash.”

Moore is the first lawmaker charged with campaign finance violations since 2016 when former Republican Sen. Fletcher Hartsell of Cabarrus County was indicted for using more than $200,000 in campaign funds for personal expenses. A year later he was sentenced to eight months in prison on federal charges.

Last October, the state elections board unanimously found that Moore failed to report contributions over at least seven years. Investigators had to subpoena his bank records after Moore failed to provide them. They also looked at credit card records.

Among other things, they found:

In the largest of his three campaign accounts, Moore failed to disclose more than 65 contributions amounting to $36,605. Those contributions included money from political action committees such as Charter Communications, State Farm Insurance, the N.C. Farm Bureau and Coca Cola Bottling.

In each case, the PACs reported the contributions. Moore did not.

In the same account, he failed to report 1,689 expenditures — or 94 percent — totaling $95,753.

That included $95 for movie tickets, $1,768 for dry cleaning, $3,152 for clothing and $7,579 for food, according to the elections board.

There were at least 284 ATM withdrawals that investigators say amounted to $24,676.

All together, Moore failed to report $141,107 in contributions and expenditures since 2010.

Elections officials claimed Moore failed to disclose transactions, filed false reports and obstructed the board’s audit of his reports. The indictment says he certified under oath that false finance reports were true. Neal was indicted for submitting fraudulent documents related to Moore’s bank records.

The Observer first reported missing contributions in November 2017. At the time, it found state records showing at least 17 unreported contributions amounting to $9,450 from political action committees.

The figures came from a public records request with the elections board 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.”

Bob Hall, who tracked campaign money for decades as executive director of Democracy North Carolina, said the indictments send a strong signal to other candidates.

“They have to be very careful in how they’re reporting,” he said. “You continue that kind of practice you’re going to get caught.”

Jim Morrill, who grew up near Chicago, covers state and local politics. He’s worked at the Observer since 1981 and taught courses on North Carolina politics at UNC Charlotte and Davidson College.