Cabarrus County Republican probed for campaign funds misconduct

Jan. 12, 2013 @ 09:20 PM

The North Carolina State Board of Elections wants more details from a veteran state senator about credit card payments made using campaign funds.

Deputy state elections director Kim Strach confirmed Saturday her office is auditing the campaign committee of Sen. Fletcher Hartsell, R-Cabarrus.

Campaign finance reports show Hartsell's campaign spent nearly $100,000 in 2011 and 2012 paying on at least 10 credit cards. The campaign reports provided broad explanations for spending. One report listed the purpose of a $795 payment to Discover as "materials, office expense, unreimbursed meals, fuel, travel, books."

Hartsell told the newspaper he believes the credit card spending is associated primarily with expenses related to his public office such as travel, gas and meals. Spending campaign money on these items generally is lawful. But he said he would repay any expenses considered invalid.

Hartsell, an attorney who joined the Senate in 1991, was a co-chairman of House Finance Committee during the 2011-12 legislative session and has served as chairman of the Legislative Ethics Committee. He didn't have a primary or general election opponent in 2012.

"Just because you don't have any opponent, doesn't mean you don't have to go places," Hartsell told the newspaper. "I will concede that it sounds like a lot of money. It is a lot of money. That's the nature of the beast sometimes."

Strach said Saturday the board is performing an audit as it does with other campaign committees. She said campaign committees are expected to provide forms itemizing the purchases paid for with a credit card. Hartsell "just may not have understood that," Strach said.