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North Carolina: Elections Board will investigate contributions to Black and Decker (the politicians, not the tool company)

The News & Observer reports: The State Board of Elections announced a formal inquiry Thursday into campaign committees that aided House Speaker Jim Black and a key ally who helped keep him in power, former Rep. Michael Decker.

The inquiry takes place Feb. 8-10. It follows an investigation election officials started after Democracy North Carolina, a campaign finance watchdog, filed a complaint in June 2004 over video poker contributions to Black in the previous election cycle.

The complaint reported that Black, a Mecklenburg County Democrat who has led the House since 1999, had received more than $100,000 in contributions from people associated with the video poker industry. Some of those contributions came from people who either did not know they made them or acknowledged that they were either paid or reimbursed, the nonprofit said.

But the board's investigation has gone beyond the video poker industry. Besides examining the industry's political action committee, state elections director Gary Bartlett said Thursday the inquiry will also look at campaign filings for Black and Decker, as well as another fund-raising organization -- the N.C. State Optometric Society PAC -- that has contributed heavily to Black. Black is an optometrist. -- Board to probe donations

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