Salmon takes Stone to task for campaign contribution

$4,000 came from donor accused of financial crimes
Jun. 17, 2014 @ 04:59 AM

After the State Bureau of Investigation announced a criminal investigation into numerous campaign contributions made by the gambling industry, several prominent politicians gave charitable donations matching the amount in question.

One politician who didn't conduct that symbolic balancing act, however, was Rep. Mike Stone (R-Lee/Harnett). And now Stone's Democratic opponent in November's general election, Brad Salmon, has strongly criticized him for holding onto the $4,000 he received from one questionable donor.

"Mike Stone campaigned in 2010 on cleaning up corruption in Raleigh, but it looks like he doesn't have any problem taking — and keeping — money from an out-of-state criminal," Salmon wrote in a statement the day after the SBI announced its investigation last week.

The donor in question is Chase E. Burns, an Oklahoma man who made a fortune off of online gambling software before being accused of illegally laundering millions of dollars. The state of Oklahoma has since seized $3.5 million from Burns.

But according to Stone's office, the investigation had not involved him as of Monday afternoon.

"Representative Stone became aware of the SBI investigation of the Chase Burns donations when the story broke last week," his office said in a statement. "Members of both parties accepted donations from Burns in 2012. Stone’s office has not been questioned by the SBI and, according to Attorney General Roy Cooper’s office, is not being investigated."

Stone voted on Monday, along with most other Republican representatives, in favor of a state budget that would transfer the SBI out of the control of Cooper, a Democrat, and move it under Gov. Pat McCrory, a Republican who also accepted thousands of dollars from Burns.

One bank account Burns allegedly used to launder $1 million was the same account he used to give $235,000 to North Carolina politicians in hopes of solidifying the state's support of online gambling known as video sweepstakes, as reported by The Associated Press. His bid failed, though, as video sweepstakes are now illegal.

When they were legal, Stone had sweepstakes games in the Jonesboro grocery store he used to own. He also sided with the industry and voted in favor of keeping them legal in 2011 — after removing the machines from his store to avoid a potential conflict of interest.

Salmon said Stone owes it to local voters to explain both his connection to Burns and why he kept the man's money. Burns, who gave $4,000 to Stone on Nov. 1, 2012, pleaded no contest to two crimes in Florida last fall in exchange for prosecutors dropping 205 felony charges against him.

In his written statement, Stone didn't address why he hadn't returned the money. He did say, however, that he was disappointed to see Salmon using "negative campaign tactics."

"I am hopeful that my opponent will eventually become interested in discussing the issues during this campaign," Stone said. "As always, I will continue to focus on making it easier for citizens in Lee and Harnett counties to create jobs and have job opportunities while protecting the environment and making state government more accountable and efficient."

While the $4,000 Stone received from Burns was one of his largest donations from an individual, it's also a small percentage of the more than $300,000 Stone raised for his 2012 campaign.

From the beginning of the current election cycle on Jan. 1, 2013, through April 28 of this year — the most recent data available from the state board of elections — Salmon's campaign has out-raised and out-spent Stone. Salmon raised about $49,000 and still has close to $38,000 on hand. Stone, who started the year with more than $20,000 in reserve, has raised an additional $14,000 and still has about $31,000 on hand.