Chairs of major political parties at center of insurance scandal

With GOP chair indicted, attention turns to Dem chair

State Democratic Party Chairman Wayne Goodwin poses in his office at the Democratic party headquarters in Raleigh, N.C., Friday, April 5, 2019. Goodwin spoke to The Associated Press on Friday in his first interview since federal bribery and conspiracy charges were lodged against donor Greg Lindberg and state Republican Party Chairman Robin Hayes. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

RALEIGH — As the N.C. Republican Party deals with the reality of the indictment of their chairman, Robin Hayes, interest is turning to the state’s current Democratic Party chairman, Wayne Goodwin. Information continues to surface showing Goodwin’s long association with Greg Lindberg, the billionaire insurance company owner at the center of the growing controversy.   

Goodwin was commissioner of the Department of Insurance from 2009 until 2016, when he lost an election to the current DOI commissioner, Mike Causey. When Causey took over leadership of the department in 2017, he said employees quickly made him aware that Lindberg’s companies had been treated differently under Goodwin.   

Causey told North State Journal in an interview that it was “common knowledge” within DOI that one of the commissioner’s deputies had approved an unusual arrangement that allowed Lindberg to invest 40 percent of his company’s assets into other associated businesses, when insurance regulators often limit invested assets in affiliated companies to 10 percent. 

Despite looking for a paper trail on this arrangement, he said it was only referenced directly in a few emails. Causey said he didn’t make a lot of this initially, and his office worked to regulate Lindberg’s companies like they did with any others.

“We had a good working relationship with the officers at the Global Bankers Insurance Group, but when we got information, we wouldn’t always get all the information we needed,” Causey said. 

But then his campaign called and told him he received a large online donation from Lindberg, and “out of an abundance of caution,” Causey decided to return the money. He believed receiving money from a company he was tasked with regulating wouldn’t look appropriate and he “didn’t want any questions to be raised.”

Causey said another factor on his mind was that until that moment, Lindberg had been a major supporter of Wayne Goodwin.   

“This was a man that was not on my team when I was running,” Causey said. “He was a major fundraiser for my opponent.”   

Not only Greg Lindberg, but one of his recently indicted associates, John Palermo, who was chairman of the Chatham County Republican Party, was an active supporter of Goodwin’s campaign for DOI commissioner. Palermo ran a political action committee that supported Goodwin and operated out of a $500,000 donation from Lindberg.  

After his defeat, Goodwin and his top deputies began to work directly for Lindberg’s insurance businesses. Goodwin also began work for a major insurance industry firm, then known as the Goldwater Taplin Group, now known as Nelson Goldwater Taplin. This company is run by a bipartisan group of national political figures like former Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Florida) and Barry Goldwater Jr, a former Republican congressman and son of the presidential candidate. 

Goodwin is listed as the director of Nelson Goldwater Taplin on their website. Goodwin serves on numerous boards of insurance companies with other members of Nelson Goldwater Taplin. On April 2, 2019, Energi, an insurance company out of Boston, announced that Goodwin, along with John Doak, the former DOI commissioner of Oklahoma, would be added to their board of directors. 

In February, Doak was added to the board of directors of Insurance Care Direct out of Florida as well. Already on this board are Goodwin, Goldwater and Nelson, all from the Nelson Goldwater Taplin firm.  

Not every connection and donation from insurance industry leaders to regulators and politicians is problematic or illegal, but the FBI is taking a close look at these links as the investigation continues.   

Former N.C. Democratic chair Randy Voller, gave a statement to NSJ that he had tried to raise the issue of these funds with party leaders but would hit dead ends.  

Unfortunately the Executive Director at the time was not interested in having that discussion and instead essentially insisted that the funds were legally obtained by the party from a donor who could legally contribute to the party,” said VollerHer answer did not sit well with me at the time as I felt that this attitude was out of step with our party’s platform and that we should divest our party of said funds and insist that the Republicans do the same.”

“I think the whole bottom line about this story is it shows how big money influences politics and it doesn’t matter about party lines,” said Causey. “This is an ongoing federal investigation. It’s early, but I’m happy to let the courts sort it out.”