2009-04-02 - WRITTEN OPINIONS
2009-04-02. WRITTEN OPINIONS
GARY O. BARTLETT
P.O. BOX 27255
RALEIGH, NC 27611-7255
April 2, 2009
The Honorable John Snow
105 Van Horn Street
Murphy, NC 28906
Re: Advisory Opinion
Dear Senator Snow:
You request guidance as to whether it would be permissible to use your campaign funds to help a constituent launch a website to provide public information regarding children with disabilities. The opinion expressed in this letter is provided pursuant to N.C. Gen. Stat. 163-278.23 and is based on the information you have provided to me.
As you are aware, prior to October 1, 2006, a candidate could spend their campaign funds for any purpose. Effective October 1, 2006, legislation provided only eight allowable purposes for campaign expenditures by candidate campaign committees. If the purpose of an expenditure by a candidate campaign committee is not one of the eight allowed by N. C. Gen. Stat. 163278.16B(a), then the expenditure is prohibited. The permissible purposes are as follows:
(1) Expenditures resulting from the campaign for public office by the candidate or candidate's campaign committee.
(2) Expenditures resulting from holding public office.
(3) Contributions to an organization described in section 170(c) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 (26 U.S.C. § 170(c)), provided that the candidate or the candidate's spouse, children, parents, brothers, or sisters are not employed by the organization.
(4) Contributions to a national, State, or district or county committee of a political party or a caucus of the political party.
(5) Contributions to another candidate or candidate's campaign committee.
(6) To return all or a portion of a contribution to the contributor.
(7) Payment of any penalties against the candidate or candidate's campaign committee for violation of this Article imposed by a board of elections or a court of competent jurisdiction.
(8) Payment to the Escheat Fund established by Chapter 116B of the General Statutes.
Based on the information you have provided, the expenditure you wish to make does not appear to fall within seven of the eight permissible purposes. Contributions to charitable organizations are a permitted purpose as long as the organization is one that is described in section 170(c) of the Internal Revenue Code and no family members are employees of the organization. From our conversation, I don't believe you have information to suggest that the constituent has created such an organization. However, the second purpose allows expenditures resulting from holding public office. In order to determine if your expenditure meets this purpose, we ask the question "would you have this expense or make this expenditure if you were not holding public office?" If the answer to that question is "no" and the expenditure directly results from holding public office then your expenditure would be permissible. N. C. Gen. Stat. 163-278.23 provides a safe harbor for candidates and political committees that comply with the advice of advisory opinions, even if the advice is ultimately determined to be in error. Because this opinion is based solely on the facts provided in your communication, the opinion would not be binding if the facts or purpose changed. Therefore, if at any time the scope of your purpose should change, you will need to contact our office so that we could re-evaluate whether the expenditure would continue to be permissible.
If you should have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me or Kim Strach, Deputy Director-Campaign Finance. As required by law, this opinion will be published unedited in the North Carolina Register by the Codifier of Rules.
Gary O. Bartlett
cc: Julian Mann III, Codifier of Rules
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