Campaign Finance Audits and Investigations
Auditing Campaign Finance Reports
Campaign finance reports filed by candidates, political committees, referendum committees, and other entities are audited by state and county board of elections staff. When a report is audited, it is examined for accuracy and for conformity with state law.
Below are the answers to Frequently Asked Questions about the audit process.
Why Has My Committee Been Selected for an Audit?
State law requires that all reports be audited. Audits are conducted on a routine basis, or may be initiated because of an investigation, closure of a committee, or the death of a candidate.
County elections board staff audit reports filed with the county’s elections board. State Board of Elections staff audit reports filed with the State Board.
What Time Frame Does the Audit Cover?
Auditors review all reports from a committee’s current election cycle, as well as reports within the records retention period. State law requires committees to keep records for two years after an election. If a committee has a two-year election cycle, the auditor will review up to four years of reports. County processes and timelines may vary.
Also, if an audit is conducted as a result of an investigation, the time frame may vary.
Do I Need to Provide Information to the Auditor During the Audit?
When an audit begins, the auditor will contact the committee treasurer or, in the case of a non-registered entity, the custodian of books. Auditors may ask treasurers for copies of committee records or bank records.
How Long Will the Audit Take?
The initial review of a committee’s reports usually takes one day to two weeks. It depends on the number of transactions and whether reports are in electronic format.
When the initial review is complete, the auditor will contact the treasurer for more information, if needed. Committees usually have two weeks to provide the additional information. If bank records are needed, it can take up to six weeks to get them, depending on the bank.
The auditor examines any new records received from the committee and concludes the audit.
How Will I Know the Results of the Audit?
Auditors contact the treasurer or custodian of books to explain the audit conclusions. They also assist committees with follow-up tasks. These may include filing amended reports and/or scheduling payments of any forfeitures. When the audit is complete, the auditor uploads a Compliance Examination Memo to the website and committee’s file.
Campaign Finance Investigations
The State Board of Elections may investigate potential violations of Chapter 163, Article 22A (regarding contributions and expenditures in political campaigns) and Chapter 163, Article 22M (legal expense funds).
North Carolina registered voters may submit a complaint reporting a potential violation of North Carolina’s campaign finance laws. All complaints must be in writing and must be signed and sworn under oath or affirmation. Complaints must be submitted to the State Board of Elections. Registered voters may use the Campaign Finance Complaint form (PDF) to submit a complaint.
The State Board of Elections will notify any individual, candidate, treasurer, political committee, referendum committee, or other entity against whom allegations are made that a complaint has been filed and provide a complete copy of the complaint and all attachments to the complaint. The individual or entity receiving the notice will be given an opportunity to submit a written response to the complaint.
All campaign finance investigations are confidential. This includes the complaint, any response received from the individual or entity under investigation, and any information or materials generated or gathered by the State Board during the investigation. No investigation may be initiated more than four years from the earliest of the following dates:
a. The date the facts constituting the violation are known to the State Board or county board with jurisdiction.
b. The date the facts constituting the violation can be determined from the public record.
c. The date the complainant knew or should have known of the conduct upon which the complaint is based.
The State Board of Elections adopted a Campaign Finance Complaint Policy (PDF) on December 20, 2019. The policy outlines the policies and procedures used by staff to review and advance written complaints received by the agency or investigations initiated by the agency.
Violations may result in civil penalties, public reprimands, or other civil remedies. Certain violations may also be referred to criminal prosecutors.