CitizenWill is Certifiable

As some of the more “critical” of you readers have noted elsewhere, CitizenWill is certifiable – and here’s the proof.

I zipped down yesterday to Raleigh for the 2 hour campaign treasurer training session to comply with the new NC election statutes. Though I’ve been filing reports since 2005, and a lot of the material was old hat, the session, held at the tucked away State Board of Elections (SBOE) was still interesting.

Here’s a few observations.

Of the 24 folks attending, PACs and candidates were equally represented. I sat next to Linda Stevens treasurer. Time-Warner’s PAC was there. Some very spiffy dressed folks – election newbies – helping run Rocky Mount’s mayoral and sheriff elections attended.

Only one other candidate, former or otherwise, came – a man running for Zebulon council and his wife. He said that election campaign rules were being prolifically broken in Zebulon.

As a side note, Mike Nelson told me I was foolish to be my own treasurer – which, given all the “complex” contributions he received in 2006 😉 – I can appreciate. He also said he didn’t review the reports, something I think is a bit foolish. Mike’s pushing for some reforms at the county level – non-partisan elections, unfortunately, is not one of them.

A long lead up to mentioning that the training I received will be online and available in May.

I suggest every candidate – even those like Mike with the luxury of a campaign treasurers – go through the self-paced tutorial. In the end, the buck stops with the candidate.

Some confusion was introduced by the SBOE this year as the reports are now based on an election cycle – which starts the day after the election – instead of current method, which tracks the years. The gap between Nov. 8th to Dec 31st has to be handled differently. Several PAC folks whinged on about the delta.

In the toothless election law reforms department, county party executive committees can give unlimited funds and receive unlimited funds. Chapel Hill municipal elections are non-partisan (wink, wink, nudge, nudge) so this wide open avenue to funding doesn’t pertain but what a major gap.

Also in the toothless vein, folks can give $50 per day in cash up to $4000. Why toothless? Cash is fungible and hard to track – like a check. Bundling contributions appears to be a problem.

Business contributions, which are illegal, continue to be an issue.

Lots of time spent talking about in-kind from folks who are self-employed – are they acting as an individual or a business? For those folks, if you receive a check on their business letterhead, a “business statement” must be filed by the campaign asserting that the individual commingles personal/business funds and only has a single account for everything…

Using administrative staff or even your business phone for campaign activities is verbotten.

The trainer underlined that contributions from out-of-state require all info be reported (too bad the same couldn’t be said for out-of-county).

That said, records of all contributions must contain complete info though complete reports are only necessary if the aggregate contributions are over $50.

In-kind contributions require a receipt – including candidate in-kinds. Receipts are not reported.

Another common mistake: loan proceeds plus contributions from an individual cannot exceed $4000 per individual unless one of the excepted groups – (candidate, spouse, party committee). My total campaign was a little more than $3300…

Any amount of postage can be paid in cash.

Expenditures. Vendor expenses must be itemized. I’ve seen local reports that didn’t itemize.

Designation of Committee Funds form needs to be filled out to dictate
the fund transfer if you should die/etc. Leaving funds to a 501c3 allowed.

NCS: 163-278.16B “Use of contributions for certain purposes.” [PDF] was the biggy.

(a) A candidate or candidate campaign committee may use contributions only for the following purposes:
(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.
(b) As used in this section, the term “candidate campaign committee” means the same as in G.S. 163-278.38Z(3).
(c) Contributions made to a candidate or candidate campaign committee do not become a part of the personal estate of the individual candidate. A candidate or the candidate who directs the candidate campaign committee may file with the board a written designation of those funds that directs to which of the permitted uses in subsection (a) of this section they shall be paid in the event of the death or incapacity of the candidate. After the payment of permitted outstanding debts of the account, the candidate’s filed written designation shall control. If the candidate files no such written designation, the funds after payment of permitted outstanding debts shall be distributed in accordance with subdivision (a)(8) of this section. (2006-161, s. 1.)

The update of this statute was prompted by the Speaker Black debacle.

Interesting point raised on the fashion front. Under the new regulations a candidate can’t purchase a new suit to campaign in and pay for it with campaign funds. Since the suit has a lifetime beyond the campaign, it’s considered a personal expenditure.

Websites and email are not addressed in media regulations. Personal website can be used for campaign purposes without a disclaimer if no new costs associated otherwise it might possibly be considered an in-kind. The law is silent on “new media”.

Another major problem (that the crew over at BlueNC are well aware of), independent media buys with a “Not Authorized by…” can be bought in unlimited amounts. That is, if someone, like Anglico’s Puppetmaster, wants to purchase unlimited media for a candidate and states “This ad is not authorized by my toady to be…”, then it’s alright.

I was astonished by this loophole and had the trainer clarify my understanding. Amazing!

Printed disclosures no less than 12pts, for newspaper 28pts. I threw one of the SBOE staff a curve when I pointed out that different fonts have different sizes at 12 pts.

Interestingly , in television, if you mention opposition candidate the candidate must speak the disclaimer. Not sure about radio.

youTube is not covered.

Over and over, the SBOE emphasized yo need to keep records of every contribution no matter how small. And look for edge cases. Example – sell $20 t-shirt + $30 contribution, you trigger the $50 reporting limit.

Any committee can use the SBOE’s software for managing reports.

That’s about it. I’m now a qualified campaign treasurer for the next 4 years.

If anyone needs a hand forming their committee, I’ll be happy to help: campaign AT


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