As has been widely reported, North Carolina Republican Party chairman Robin Hayes and top GOP donor Greg Lindberg were indicted on charges of bribery and conspiracy to commit honest service wire fraud stemming from an effort to get Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey to remove a regulator Lindberg didn’t like.
They and two others were indicted by a federal court Monday and released from custody on a $100,000 bond.
The alleged scheme involved Hayes and Lindberg attempting to bribe Causey with campaign contributions totally $2 million if Causey removed a senior insurance deputy responsible for regulating one of Lindberg’s investment companies. Causey reported them to the FBI in January 2018 and cooperated in the investigation. Hayes has also been charged with lying to the FBI.
Hayes, who has chaired the NCGOP on and off since 2011, had announced Monday—before news of the indictments broke Tuesday morning—that he would not seek re-election to the post, though he didn’t say anything about his looming legal troubles. Instead, he said this:
“The North Carolina Republican Party is at its most stable point in recent history, with strong leadership at all levels of our Party. With the NCGOP well positioned to win two special Congressional elections this year and deliver this state for President Trump in 2020, this is a good time to pass the torch to our strong bullpen of Republican Party leaders.”
Hayes’s announcement spurred an outpouring of praise from Republicans who might now regret their laudatory statements.
“Robin, through his actions, made it clear he would do whatever was necessary for the Republican Party,” said John Lewis, the state party’s general counsel.
“Robin Hayes has been one of the most successful NCGOP chairs ever, leading Republican victories in North Carolina for the last two presidential elections and playing an instrumental role in bringing the Republican National Convention to Charlotte in 2020,” said U.S. Senator Thom Tillis.
“There is simply not a better human being to work with on this planet than Chairman Hayes,” gushed NCGOP executive director Dallas Woodhouse, adding, “Robin has become a second father to me.” (Woodhouse did not return the INDY‘s request for comment Tuesday.)
The party issued a statement Tuesday that—somewhat remarkably—completely failed to mention that its chairman had just been indicted for attempted bribery.
Attributed to counsel Josh Howard, it read, in full: “Early this morning, the North Carolina Republican Party was made aware of several indictments surrounding the conduct of a major donor to both major political parties and two of his associates. The Party has been cooperating with the investigation for several months, including staff members providing statements and responding to various document requests. The Party, which has its day to day operations managed by professional staff under the direction of the NCGOP Central Committee, remains fully operational and focused on its mission at hand.”
Nothing to see here, move along.
Hayes began his political career in the state House, from 1993–97, capping that with an unsuccessful bid for governor in 1996 against Jim Hunt. He then spent a decade as a U.S. congressman before losing to Larry Kissel in 2008 by a ten-point margin, in part due to inflammatory comments he made during a rally, in which he opined that “liberals hate real Americans that work and accomplish and achieve and believe in God.”
Hayes repeatedly denied making those comments and lambasted the media for reported that he had—until recordings of the rally were released, showing that, well, he lied.
So he basically invented #fakenews, too.
His congressional loss cleared the way for him to ascend in the NCGOP. He was elected chairman in 2011 and served until 2013. Hayes reclaimed the post in 2016, after the party brass ousted the NCGOP’s first African American chairman, Hasan Harnett, in a bizarre, racially tinged power struggle.
Party leaders accused Harnett, who rose to power with the tea party’s backing, of working around them and trying to hack the party’s website. Harnett insinuated that he was targeted because he was black: “Is this some form of ritual or hazing you would put the first black chairman of the NCGOP State Party through?” he asked Woodhouse at one point. “Or is it because I am not white enough for you?”
The state party eventually cut off his email. Then Harnett sent reporters a note from his personal account, talking about himself in the third person: “Even though some of the Republican Anonymous may disagree with the vision God has given your Republican Chairman, he remains steadfast in serving the full North Carolina Republican electorate and the greater Republican community despite no access to my NC GOP emails and resources.”
The party’s executive committee quickly canned Harnett and asked Hayes to come back.
Now Hayes is under federal indictment.
On Wednesday, he announced that he’d give up oversight of the party’s daily operations. In the NCGOP’s press release—despite the fact that he’s caught up in a corruption scandal—the party didn’t exactly hang the boss out to dry.
“Robin Hayes has to my knowledge always reflected the best interest of my state, the Republican Party, and other good works without a hint of impropriety,” it quoted national committeewoman Ada Fisher as saying. “This country and my Party have been founded on the principle of the rule of law with our firm belief that people are innocent until proven guilty.”
The release also quoted Hayes’s personal lawyer, who assured everyone that Hayes did nothing wrong: “After a long and distinguished career in public service at the local, state, and federal levels, Robin volunteered his time helping to support the Party and candidates for office in North Carolina. We look forward to a swift conclusion to this matter and clearing his name.”
Hayes’s indictment comes less than two months after the State Board of Elections ordered a new election in the Ninth Congressional District. The NCSBE found evidence that a consultant hired by Republican candidate Mark Harris had committed widespread election fraud. During a hearing, Harris’s son also contradicted his father’s testimony and said he had warned his father about the consultant.
Meanwhile, Republicans lost the governor’s race in 2016, lost their legislative supermajorities in 2018, and probably kept their congressional and legislative majorities in 2018 only through gerrymandering—and they may soon lose that advantage, if not at the U.S. Supreme Court then at the state Supreme Court, which the Democrats now dominate. Governor Cooper seems like he’s on a glide path to reelection, especially if the GOP nominates that goober Dan Forest. (Trump, meanwhile, seems stuck in the mid-forties in North Carolina.)
Fraud, a string of losses, a middling (and volatile) Republican president—and now a corruption scandal.
Into this unenviable shitshow Aubrey Woodard, the director of the NCGOP’s Eleventh District Executive Committee, who will serve as acting party chairman until a new leader is chosen this summer. Assuming anyone actually wants that job.