The N.C. Republican Party asked for records Tuesday from the office of Lt. Gov. Bev Perdue, looking for information about two of her campaign contributors and others with ties to a company that's a focus of a corruption investigation.
The request – coming less than a week after Perdue returned $6,750 to the two contributors – signals that Republicans are planning to highlight the issue in this year's governor's race. Perdue, the Democratic nominee, faces Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory, a Republican.
The scandal revolves around Agri-Ethanol Products, a company that has been planning to build an ethanol plant in Beaufort County.
Last week, a former state environmental official was sentenced to more than three years in federal prison after he said he made a deal with Agri-Ethanol to speed up environmental permitting in exchange for $100,000 cash and a consulting contract worth almost $100,000.
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Two Perdue contributors, Barry Lee Green and Ricky Wright, were named in court last week as investors in Agri-Ethanol who spoke with the state official, Boyce Allen Hudson. Perdue's campaign says that, on the same day, it returned three contributions from them totaling $6,750. It says it will keep money from a fundraiser Wright hosted in 2006.
Among other things, Republicans want Perdue's office to provide copies of any communication it has had with Green, Wright, Hudson and Agri-Ethanol chief executive David Brady.
Will Polk, Perdue's legal counsel, said Tuesday that the office has “received the request from the N.C. Republican Party and we are in the process of reviewing our records.”
Republicans say they have several unanswered questions.
“How does the lieutenant governor know these individuals? Why are they supporting her campaign? What do they expect to receive from a potential Perdue administration?” said Chris McClure, executive director of the N.C. Republican Party, in a news release.
“We deserve answers to these questions and we hope the expeditious response to our request by the lieutenant governor's office will shed some light on those answers,” McClure added.
Wright is a former Alcohol Beverage Control commissioner and Green was an owner of Thee Dollhouse, a Raleigh strip club now known as The Men's Club, and Crowley's Old Favorites Restaurant in Raleigh. Neither could be reached for comment Tuesday, and neither of them – nor anyone else with Agri-Ethanol – has been accused of wrongdoing by prosecutors.
Perdue has often touted alternative energy sources such as ethanol as part of North Carolina's becoming a “green state.” At a 2006 energy summit at Western Carolina University, she lauded planned ethanol plants in eastern North Carolina.
“North Carolina could become a major national distributor of ethanol and biodiesel. It's not just the right thing to do. It's the right economic thing to do,” Perdue said, according to The Asheville Citizen-Times.
David Kochman, Perdue's campaign spokesman, said Tuesday he did not have an exact amount raised at a 2006 fundraiser at Wright's Wake Forest home.
The campaign would not give the exact date. Kochman said the campaign intends to keep the money.
“There were quite a few people who worked on the event and hosted it,” he said, “so there's no way of knowing who would have raised which money.”