News: CJ Exclusives

Perdue Campaign Donor Indicted

Robert Caldwell charged with obstruction in aircraft provider probe

Robert Caldwell, a member and former chairman of the Board of Trustees of Western Piedmont Community College in Morganton, was indicted Tuesday by a Wake County grand jury in its probe of the 2008 campaign of Gov. Bev Perdue. WTVD broke the story.

The indictment, signed by Wake County District Attorney Colon Willoughby, is for obstruction of justice, a felony.

According to the indictment (PDF), Caldwell “solicted and accepted a check for a campaign contribution to the [Bev Perdue] Committee from [Morganton barber] James D. Fleming (Fleming) and reimbursed Fleming in cash from an unnamed source for the contribution.” The indictment then says Caldwell used the check to pay Profile Aviation for a flight Perdue took for a campaign event. The flight was reported — incorrectly — as an in-kind contribution to the campaign.

Carolina Journal highlighted the unusual relationship between Fleming — who had not made a campaign contribution to a political candidate for at least 20 years — Caldwell, and other donors in September. CJ also noted at the time that the State Board of Elections had not interviewed any donors to the Perdue campaign before fining Perdue’s committee $30,000 for late and unreported flights.

To read all of CJ’s coverage of Perdue’s aircraft provider program, click here.

[Editor’s note: This story was corrected to note that Caldwell is no longer chairman of the WPCC board and to clarify that Profile Aviation was paid by check.]