Top GOP senator wants regulation of legal defense funds
Posted by Mitch Kokai at 2:48 PM
The following is the text of a letter Senate Republican Leader Phil Berger submitted to top state election officials today.
Mr. Larry Leake, Chairman
Mr. Gary O. Bartlett, Executive Director
State Board of Elections
506 N. Harrington Street
Raleigh, NC 27601
RE: Legal Defense Funds
I am writing to request that you clarify the procedures used in enforcing Section 163-278.36 of the General Statutes. Specifically, I am interested in your definition of “support fund” and its applicability to legal defense funds.
Section 163-278.36 of the North Carolina General Statutes requires that all donations to a “support” or “booster” fund of a candidate or office holder used to support his duties and actions while in office be reported as campaign contributions and expenditures.
Legal defense funds are established by officeholders with the general intent that the money placed into the fund be used to cover the costs of litigation. These costs are typically incurred while the official is acting in his elected capacity. Tradition is that these funds are unregulated and unreported. However, the code clearly states that support funds, which can be interpreted to mean contributions to legal defense funds, must be reported in the same manner as campaign reports
As it is required by statute, legal defense funds should be held to the same reporting standards as all other campaign accounts.
I understand that you had earlier requested clarification from the General Assembly on this issue and are awaiting a response; in light of the current situation, I request that you act under current and existing statutory authority.
Senator Phil Berger
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