Politics & Government

Former Rep. Rodney Moore pleads guilty in campaign finance case, gets probation

Former Rep. Rodney Moore
Former Rep. Rodney Moore

Former Democratic Rep. Rodney Moore, who was indicted in March on nine felony counts involving false campaign reports, was handed a suspended sentence Thursday after pleading guilty to a single count.

Moore pleaded guilty to one felony count of making felony false statements under oath, according to the Mecklenburg District Attorney’s office.

Superior Court Judge Lisa Bell sentenced him to up to five months in prison but suspended the sentence pending his completion of 12 months of unsupervised probation.

Moore could not be reached Thursday. His attorney, Morris McAdoo, said Moore agreed to a plea bargain.

“We basically entered into an agreement to close this case and have this case behind him,” McAdoo said Thursday.

A former Democratic House leader, Moore was indicted on counts involving filing false campaign reports after investigators found that he failed to report more than $141,000 in campaign contributions and expenditures.

Authorities said 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.

Moore, who lost his re-election bid last year, represented a northeast Mecklenburg district.

He was the first N.C. 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 fall, 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 that:

▪ In one campaign account, Moore failed to disclose more than 65 contributions amounting to $36,605. Those contributions included money from political action committees such as State Farm Insurance. In each case, the PACs reported the contributions. Moore did not.

▪ In the same account, he failed to report 1,689 expenditures 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.

Moore’s former campaign manager, Tammy Neal, also was indicted this spring on a charge of felony obstruction of justice. Her case is pending, according to the District Attorney’s office.

Bob Phillips, state executive director of Common Cause, said Moore’s case could be a symptom of a wider issue.

“It speaks to the problems of a part-time legislature with so much money sloshing around out there,” he said. “It’s part of the problem with money in politics.”

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.