News: CJ Exclusives

Perdue May Spend Campaign Funds To Publish Papers

Cultural Resources has legal authority to handle official documents

Gov. Bev Perdue’s campaign committee is considering using some of the money left over in her campaign account to compile and publish papers from her life in public service.

Perdue’s campaign had nearly $1.8 million on hand as of the committee’s latest filing with the State Board of Elections on July 31. The committee also listed $776,500 in outstanding loans.

That would leave more than $1 million in the account should the campaign decide to repay the loans.

Even though she had been raising money actively for her re-election campaign through the end of 2011, the governor announced unexpectedly in late January she would not seek a second term. The decision not to run left political observers wondering how she would spend the large war chest she had accumulated.

A spokesman for her campaign said that it has yet to decide whether to go ahead with the publishing project. But the campaign did get an opinion from the State Board of Elections to use campaign funds should it decide to proceed.

“There are no specific plans,” said Marc Farinella, a consultant with the campaign committee. “It was unclear whether North Carolina law would allow such a thing if we get to the point where we want to do that.”

Farinella said that since no specifics have been worked out, he did not know how any such publication of Perdue’s papers would differ from archiving that would be done by the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources.

State law charges Cultural Resources with the responsibility of collecting, editing, and publishing the official papers of each governor.

Jennifer Woodward, assistant secretary of cultural resources, said the department has archived governors’ official documents in the past, and will do so after Perdue leaves office.

“Thanks to technology and being in the digital age, we are likely going to be taking these documents from the governor,” Woodward said. “They’ll be providing it in a format that we will make available digitally.”

In an Aug. 23 letter to John R. Wallace, a lawyer for Perdue’s campaign committee, Gary Bartlett, executive director of the State Board of Elections, issued an advisory opinion saying the expense of publishing Perdue’s papers would be permissible for a campaign committee under North Carolina law.

Bartlett noted in his letter that before Oct. 1, 2006, state law did not limit how a candidate could spend campaign funds. But that year, the General Assembly enacted a law spelling out permissible purposes for campaign funds.

They include:

• Expenditures resulting from the campaign for office by the candidate or the candidate’s campaign committee.

• Expenditures resulting from holding public office.

• Donations to certain charitable organizations recognized by the IRS, provided that neither the candidate nor the candidate’s immediate family members are employed by the organization.

• Contributions to political party committees.

• Contributions to another candidate’s campaign committee.

• Refunds of contributions to contributors.

• Payment of any penalties assessed to the committee by a board of elections or a court.

• Payment to the state’s unclaimed properties fund, known as the Escheat Fund.

• Legal expense donations.

Bartlett’s letter said that since the expenses of compiling and publishing the papers would be associated with Perdue’s public service, they would be legitimate under the provision allowing for expenditures resulting from public office.

Wallace noted in his letter that any proceeds from the publication would be donated to an IRS tax-exempt organization.

Such donations also would be permissible under state law, according to Bartlett’s letter.

“We’re only really beginning to get into this,” Farinella said. “All I was trying to do was get some sense of the parameters and options available.”

Farinella said he did not know how much compiling and publishing such papers would cost. Wallace’s letter requesting the opinion from the State Board of Elections said the committee envisioned employing one ormore persons to examine the records for research purposes

Farinella also said he did not know how the remaining funds in the campaign account would be spent.

Barry Smith is an associate editor of Carolina Journal.