RALEIGH – Over the last couple years a low key, very wealthy Durham investor named Greg Lindberg suddenly stepped up his N.C. political spending to the millions($.52 in three years), becoming the largest political donor in the state. Now he or his companies are the target of a federal investigation with multiple active subpoenas involved.
Lindberg is Founder and CEO of Eli Global and the myriad companies that stem from it. He has given money to both parties in his recent ascent to mega donor status. First he gave $350,000 to re-elect Democrat Wayne Goodwin as Insurance Commissioner, a race Goodwin, now the head of the N.C. Democratic Party, ultimately lost. Then he followed that up with over nearly $2.5 million to Republicans, bankrolling PACs for Dan Forest and Republican Council of State Members.
The subpoenas are requesting documents back to 2014, when Goodwin was intimately involved with soliciting big money from Lindberg.
“Lindberg’s first major foray into North Carolina politics came in 2016, when he put $350,000 into a PAC called the N.C. Opportunity Committee, which supported then-Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin’s re-election bid. Lindberg donated another $10,000 directly to Goodwin’s campaign, the maximum allowed under state campaign finance rules at the time.
Goodwin now chairs the North Carolina Democratic Party. He has frequently declined to discuss Lindberg, and he did not return a message seeking comment Tuesday. A spokesman for the Democratic Party declined to comment.
Minutes from a party executive council meeting after Lindberg made his six-figure contributions to the Democratic Party quote Executive Director Kimberley Reynolds as saying Goodwin “personally obtained” the $250,000 building fund donation and that he “should get all the credit for it.”
Two of Goodwin’s top lieutenants at the insurance department – former deputy commissioners Ray Martinez and Louis Belo – went to work for Lindberg’s companies soon after Goodwin lost his re-election bid in 2016. An attempt to reach them Tuesday at the main phone number for Global Bankers Insurance was not successful.”
Considering Lindberg’s insurance businesses, it makes sense that he’d have an interest in their regulation. That interest was too direct for Republican Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey, who returned two $5,000 donations from Lindberg after his victory out of an abundance of caution. He said active, but routine financial exams associated with the investor’s businesses made accepting the donations ethically untenable.
However, judging by the stated direction of the investigation, the relationship with the insurance commission may have been too cozy.
“A subpoena issued last month to the state Department of Insurance, which regulates a number of Lindberg’s companies, indicates that a federal investigator with a background in white-collar crime and an FBI forensic auditor are involved. The subpoena came from U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina Andrew Murray’s office in Charlotte.
“An official criminal investigation of a suspected felony is being conducted by an agency of the United States and a federal grand jury,” the cover letter states. An attached notice states that the “subpoena relates to an investigation of drug offenses, crimes against financial institutions, or money laundering crimes.””
They want all the records from the Department of Insurance for eight of Lindberg’s companies from 2014 forward. The connection to political donations is confirmed by the fact that investigators have also asked the NCGOP for records related him as well.
“Federal investigators have also reached out to the North Carolina Republican Party for information, Executive Director Dallas Woodhouse confirmed. Lindberg has given the party nearly $2 million over the last year or so. He began giving this year to the North Carolina Democratic Party as well, putting at least $500,000 into party operations and its building fund either personally or through one of his companies.”
When you have a lot of money, and a lot of money on the line, you spread it around to everybody to make sure your interests are looked after. That comes with the territory when your business is subject to relatively heavy government regulation. The more government controls an industry, the more likely it is to fill with lobbyists, heavyweights, and cronies and of necessity and opportunity.
It’s hard to know exactly what they are looking for, but one can’t help but wonder if this could turn from a Lindberg investigation into a political implication down the road.
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