2010-2-02-03 - WRITTEN OPINIONS

2010-2-02-03. WRITTEN OPINIONS

GARY O. BARTLETT

Executive Director

MAILING ADDRESS:

P.O. BOX 27255

RALEIGH, NC 27611-7255

February 3, 2010

Ms. Barbara Howe

Libertarian Party North Carolina

PO Box 28141

Raleigh, NC 27611-8141

Re: Request for advisory opinion

Dear Ms. Howe:

I am in receipt of your letter dated December 31, 2009, in which you seek an opinion as to whether appropriations from the North Carolina Political Parties Financing Fund to the Libertarian Party North Carolina can be used to pay outstanding legal fees incurred by the Party. The following opinion is provided pursuant to N.C. Gen. Stat. § 163-278.23 and can be relied upon as provided by that statute.

Article 22B of Chapter 163 of the North Carolina General Statutes sets forth the legitimate expenses for which funds from the North Carolina Political Parties Financing Fund can be used. As provided by N.C.G.S. § 163-278.42(e), these funds can only be used for legitimate campaign expenses. As a means of illustration, examples of legitimate campaign expenses are provided. Each of these examples provide for expenses that are related to a campaign including expenses incurred to comply with campaign finance and disclosure laws. Additionally, these funds could be used for Party headquarters operations but only as those expenses relate to an upcoming general election. No funds can be spent directly or indirectly for any candidate or selection of a candidate in a primary or nominating convention. It is my opinion that the only permissible way these funds could be used to pay outstanding legal expenses would be if those legal expenses were incurred as a result of a campaign relating to an upcoming general election. If the legal expenses were not for that purpose, then funds from the North Carolina Political Parties Financing Fund could not be used. We could assist you in making this determination only if we are provided the facts about the specific purpose of the legal expenses.

Effective January 1, 2008, any individual serving or seeking office collecting funds for the purpose of funding a legal action or potential legal action is required to establish a legal expense fund. Article 22M of Chapter 163 of the North Carolina General Statutes addresses the regulations of such a legal expense fund. The legislation does not address other political committees' collection of funds for the purpose of funding a legal action or potential legal action.

However, if the Libertarian Party of North Carolina chooses to raise funds for that purpose, they could do so as set forth in Article 22M. N.C. G.S. § 163-278.320 provides the permitted uses of legal expense funds. If a party committee established such a fund it would be limited to using those funds for any legal action or potential legal action brought against the party. This would not include utilizing those funds to pay legal expenses of a candidate of that party. Legal expense funds could only fund party specific legal expenses, not for any other purpose.

If you should have additional questions about establishing such a fund, please don't hesitate to contact myself of Kim Strach, Deputy Director-Campaign Finance. This opinion is based upon the information provided by you in your December 31, 2009 letter. If any information in that letter should change, you should consult with our office to ensure that this opinion would still be binding. Finally, this opinion will be filed with the Codifier of Rules to be published unedited in the North Carolina Register and the North Carolina Administrative Code.

Sincerely,

@#20#@

Gary O. Bartlett

Executive Director

cc: Julian Mann, Codifier of Rules

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