The State Ethics Commission (Commission) and the Secretary of State (Secretary) both have jurisdiction and the authority to investigate complaints alleging violations of the Lobbying Law (N.C.G.S. 120C). The Secretary has exclusive administrative, investigative and sanctioning authority in matters solely involving Articles 2, 4, or 8, which relate to registration and reporting requirements for lobbyist and lobbyist principals. G.S. 120C-601(a). Therefore, any complaints alleging violations solely related to a lobbyist's or lobbyist principal's failure to register or report, the matter will be referred to the Secretary's Lobbying Compliance Division. If a complaint involves alleged violations of both Articles 2, 4, or 8 and any other provision of the Lobbying Law, the Commission will determine whether the matter should be investigated and the extent of the investigation.
Article 1 of Chapter 120C provides relevant definitions and directives for the Commission and the Secretary. Article 3 includes prohibitions and restrictions that form the crux of the Commission's enforcement authority. Specifically, Article 3 prohibits:
- lobbyists from accepting contingency fees;
- attempts to influence a "designated individual's" campaign by providing financial support to the candidate or the candidate's opponent;
- gifts, given directly or indirectly, to certain designated individuals by lobbyists and lobbyist principals unless an exception applies;
- legislators, public servants and other State employees from registering as a lobbyist while in office or within 6 months of leaving their office or employment;
- lobbyists from being appointed by a State official to certain State Boards; and
- lobbyists from permitting certain designated individuals to use the cash or credit of the lobbyist.
G.S. 120C-300 to 305.
Article 5 governs liaison personnel. It requires certain employees of state and local governmental entities who lobby for legislative action on behalf of those entities, to register as liaison personnel and to file reports regarding their legislative lobbying. They are also subject to the gifts ban of Chapter 120C. G.S. 120C-500 to 502.
Article 7 delineates various parties exempted from the requirements of Chapter 120C.