State Senator Fletcher Hartsell accepted campaign contributions from billionaire David Murdock in excess of the $4,000 per election limit. In the 2008 election cycle Cabarrus Republican Hartsell received a $4,000 Murdock contribution 5/01/08, during the primary. Hartsell received another contribution of $4,000 from Murdock 10/17/08, during the general, apparently maxing out legal contributions.
However, Hartsell had also participated in a joint fundraising committee known as the Cabarrus-Rowan Leadership Celebration. The committee was shared by five candidates equally: Jeff Barnhart, Linda Johnson, Fred Steen, Bob Crumley and Fletcher Hartsell. Murdock contributed $4,000 to the joint fundraising committee 11/15/07. Of that $4,000 the amount of $800 is considered a contribution to Fletcher Hartsell by David Murdock during the primary.
The limits on state campaign contributions apply per person per candidate, not per committee. Campaign treasurers are required to track contributions, notify contributors when they have exceeded the $4,000 limit and return the excess contributions. Treasurer of individual campaigns are supposed to remain aware of contributions to joint fundraising committees by individuals that are shared by the candidate.
The Hartsell committee did not notify David Murdock that the $4,000 contribution 5/01/08 resulted in a total primary contribution of $4,800. The committee did not return the excess $800, nor did it notify Murdock or return the $800 when the 10/17/08 contribution of $4,000 was made. No correction was made in either the 2008 4th Quarter report or the 2009 semi-annual report.
In a week when a surreal State Board of Elections hearing, at great expense, has focused on debating whether or not contributions to party committees represent circumventions of the $4,000 per person per candidate limit it is bizarre that a well documented case of excess contributions remains unaddressed.
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