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Congressional candidate accused of campaign violation

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — A Republican candidate for a western North Carolina congressional seat in 2020 has been accused by federal prosecutors of a campaign finance violation, and she’s signed a plea agreement, court records say.

Lynda Bennett is charged with willingly and knowingly accepting on her campaign’s behalf $25,000 in contributions during 2019 from a relative that were provided in the name of another person, according to a criminal information filed by U.S. Justice Department attorneys on Friday.

Another document filed on Monday by one of the federal attorneys in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia requested a court hearing because Bennett “has signed a plea agreement and statement of offense.”

Federal law during the 2019-20 election cycle limited an individual’s campaign donation to a federal candidate to $2,800 per election, or $5,600 in total, the criminal information said. The document identifies neither the relative nor the name of the other person who actually made donations.

Bennett, a longtime Haywood County real estate agent, didn’t immediately respond on Monday to a phone message seeking comment on the accusations, which were first reported by Politico.

Bennett was a Republican candidate in the race for the 11th Congressional District seat held by then-Rep. Mark Meadows, who was vacating the seat to become President Donald Trump’s chief of staff. Bennett was a friend of Meadows’ wife and endorsed by Meadows before the March 2020 primary. She advanced to a primary runoff but lost to Madison Cawthorn despite also receiving Trump’s endorsement.

Cawthorn won the 11th District general election in November 2020 and served one term. Then-state Sen. Chuck Edwards defeated Cawthorn in last May’s primary and joined Congress earlier this month.