Okla. man arrested in Fla. probe gave to NC gov

Mar. 14, 2013 @ 06:20 PM

Gov. Pat McCrory announced Thursday his campaign has given to charity campaign cash received from an Oklahoma man who has been charged in the investigation of a Florida charity and alleged gambling ring.

Records also showed a North Carolina law firm the governor worked for just prior to taking office lobbied on behalf of International Internet Technologies. The firm, Moore & VanAllen, filed paperwork with the state Thursday severing its ties with the Anadarko, Okla.-based company.

IIT owner Chase Egan Burns and his wife gave $8,000 to McCrory's campaign in October, according to records. Burns gave another $25,000 to the North Carolina Republican Party and nearly $125,000 to both GOP and Democratic legislators.

Burns, 37, is accused of owning gambling parlors operating under Allied Veterans, a purported Florida-based charity for veterans. Prosecutors said Allied earned about $300 million from illegal gaming, while about 2 percent of the proceeds were spent on veterans.

As he campaigned last year, McCrory refused to detail precisely what he did for Moore & VanAllen. He would not say which clients he advised or how much he was paid. He is not a lawyer and has never registered as a lobbyist.

Moore & VanAllen spokesman Brian Nick said Thursday the Charlotte firm assisted IIT "on legislative strategy and media outreach," but would not discuss why they had ended the relationship.

McCrory performed no work for IIT, said Nick, who was registered as one of the firm's four lobbyists on the account. Nick joined Moore & VanAllen in December after serving as the spokesman for McCrory's 2012 gubernatorial campaign.

Another North Carolina law firm, Nexsen Pruet, also has two employees registered as lobbying for IIT. Spokesman Kevin Floyd said he was not authorized to discuss the firm's work for the company.

Current McCrory spokeswoman Kim Genardo said a donation equaling Burn's political contribution to the governor's campaign was made Wednesday to the Durham Rescue Mission, a charity that serves the homeless. Genardo did not immediately respond to questions about IIT ties to the governor's former employer.

McCrory's office announced early Thursday the governor had canceled all public appearances scheduled for the day, citing illness.

Records show Burns spread his money among about 40 North Carolina legislators going into the November election, with many receiving checks for the maximum allowed contribution of $4,000.

State lawmakers have spent the past several years trying to rid the state of video sweepstakes games that popped up after a ban on traditional video poker machines went into effect in July 2007.

Other lawmakers, with the backing of sweepstakes business operators, also filed bills that would legalize and tax heavily the machines for the state.

Those bills saw little movement in the General Assembly, but operators and their lobbyists were preparing in late 2012 for a state Supreme Court ruling in December that ultimately upheld the legality of the state ban. A favorable ruling for machine operators, however, would have opened wide the door for giving the industry legitimacy through state regulation.

Democrats in the state House announced Thursday they will donate amounts equal to any contributions received from Burns to charities focused on helping veterans in North Carolina.

A spokesman for the state Republican Party did not immediately respond to messages about Burns' political donations.

Burns and his wife were among 57 people charged so far in the widening criminal probe, with 54 search warrants issued in Florida and five other states: South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Nevada and Pennsylvania.

Florida Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll, a Republican whose public relations firm worked for Allied Veterans, stepped down after being questioned by investigators. She has not been charged with any wrongdoing.

Allied ran nearly 50 Internet parlors with computerized slot machine-style games and gave little to veterans, instead lavishing millions on charity leaders, who spending it on boats, beachfront condos and Maseratis, Ferraris and Porsches, authorities said.

Authorities said they seized about 300 bank accounts containing $64.7 million, as well as sports cars and other property.

Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Gerald Bailey said the arrests were only the first wave. The second part of the investigation will focus on political contributions Allied Veterans made and gambling centers not operated by the charity.