The North Carolina State Board of Elections and county boards of elections regulate contributions and expenditures in primaries and elections for North Carolina offices. The Federal Elections Commission regulates contributions and expenditures in primaries and elections for federal offices.
What is a Contribution?
A contribution is anything of value whatsoever, made to, or in coordination with, a candidate to support or oppose the nomination or election of one or more clearly identified candidates, or to a political committee, to a political party, to an affiliated party committee, or to a referendum committee, whether or not made in an election year, and any contract, agreement, or other obligation to make a contribution. N.C.G.S. § 163-278.6(13).
A contribution includes in-kind transfers. An in-kind contribution is a non-monetary contribution, such as a good or service, made to a committee.
What is an Expenditure?
An expenditure includes any purchase, transfer of funds, payment, gift, or anything of value whatsoever, whether or not made in an election year, and any contract, agreement, or other obligation to make an expenditure, to support or oppose the nomination, election, or passage of one or more clearly identified candidates, or ballot measure. N.C.G.S. § 163-278.6(51).
An expenditure includes any payment or other transfer made by a political committee.
North Carolina’s Campaign Finance Laws require political committees to disclose all contributions and expenditures. North Carolina laws also set source and contribution limits. Violations may result in criminal or civil penalties. North Carolina’s Campaign Finance Laws may be found in Chapter 163, Articles 22A and 22M. Advisory opinions and regulations may be found in Title 8, Chapters 14 and 21 of the North Carolina Administrative Code.
This webpage provides an overview for political committees; however, detailed information may be found in the North Carolina Campaign Finance Manual.
What is a Political Committee?
Under N.C.G.S. § 163-278.6(74), the term “political committee” means a combination of two or more individuals, such as any person, committee, association, organization, or other entity that makes, or accepts anything of value to make, contributions or expenditures and has one or more of the following characteristics:
- Is controlled by a candidate;
- Is a political party or executive committee of a political party or is controlled by a political party or executive committee of a political party;
- Is created by a corporation, business entity, insurance company, labor union, or professional association pursuant to N.C.G.S. § 163-278.19(d); or
- Has the major purpose to support or oppose the nomination or election of one or more clearly identified candidates; or
- Is an affiliated party committee.
Supporting or opposing the election of clearly identified candidates includes supporting or opposing the candidates of a clearly identified political party.
Political party executive committees, and political committees that operates under the direction of a political party executive committee (a “subordinate” committee), are commonly referred to as a political party committee.
All other non-candidate political committees are commonly referred to as political action committees or PACs.
While subject to some of the same laws and regulations, Independent Expenditure PACs operate differently. Please see the Campaign Finance Manual for more information about these PACs.
All political committees must appoint a treasurer who resides in North Carolina. N.C.G.S. § 163-278.7(a).
Every treasurer must participate in treasurer training within three months of appointment and at least once every four years thereafter. N.C.G.S. § 163-278.7(f). More information can be found at Treasurer Training.
Bank Accounts and the Receipt and Use of Cash
The treasurer must maintain all moneys of the political committee in bank accounts used exclusively by the committee. N.C.G.S. § 163-278.8(f). Political committee funds may not be commingled with personal funds or other accounts. All bank accounts and other depositories used by the political committee must be maintained in North Carolina. 08 NCAC 21 .0201 (PDF).
A candidate committee may not accept cash contributions in excess of $50. N.C.G.S. § 163-278.14(b). Media expenditures may not be made in cash. N.C.G.S. § 163-278.8(c). Nonmedia expenditures of more than $50 also may not be made in cash. N.C.G.S § 163-278.8(d).
When a PAC is created pursuant to N.C.G.S. § 163-278.19(d), the name of the PAC must include the name of the corporation, insurance company, business entity, labor union or professional association whose officials, employees, or members established the committee. N.C.G.S. § 163-278.7(b)(1).
All political committees must file an Organizational Report within 10 days of organizing N.C.G.S. § 163-278.9(a)(1).
All political party committees and affiliated party committees file their Organizational Report with the State Board of Elections.
PACs supporting candidates for Council of State, General Assembly, and judicial offices (including district attorney) file their Organizational Report with the State Board of Elections. PACs supporting candidates for office in a single county or municipality file their Organizational Report with the county board of elections. PACs supporting candidates for office in multiple counties or municipalities should file their Organizational Report with the State Board of Elections.
An organizational report must include the following required forms:
- CRO-2100C Party Committee Statement of Organization (used by political party committees and affiliated party committees) OR CRO-2100D Political Action Committee Statement of Organization. This form discloses basic information about the political committee including the name of the treasurer.
- CRO-3500 Certification of Financial Accounts. This form discloses the bank accounts used by the political committee.
- CRO-1000 Detailed Report Cover AND CRO-1100 Detailed Summary. As part of the organizational report, the political committee must disclose all contributions and expenditures not previously reported. At a minimum, the treasurer must submit the CRO-1000 and CRO-1100. As you complete the CRO-1100, you will be alerted as to any additional forms that are required. A free electronic filing option is also available. The treasurer must sign and file the CRO-1000 certifying the report as true and correct.
After filing an Organizational Report, political committees supporting candidates for State and county offices file quarterly or semiannual disclosure reports according to the reporting schedule in N.C.G.S. § 163-278.9. This schedule is available on the Reporting Schedules page.
Committees supporting candidates for municipal offices file reports according to a different reporting schedule. Please contact your county board of elections to learn the reporting schedule that applies to your committee.
A political committee that receives a contribution or transfer of funds of $1,000 or more before an election but after the period covered by the last report due before that election is required to file a 48 Hour Report. N.C.G.S. § 163-278.9(a)(2). Contributions disclosed in a 48 Hour Report must also be disclosed in the next quarterly report.
All reports must be signed and certified as true and correct. N.C.G.S. § 163-278.32. A committee that does not file a report by the due date will receive a late filing penalty. N.C.G.S. § 163-278.34(a).
Notices of reports due are sent by the appropriate board of elections to committee treasurers. Please note that if the mailing or email address of a committee’s treasurer is not current on the Statement of Organization that committee may not receive the notifications, but must still file the reports.
Certain Political Party Committees Under Threshold
Political party committees and affiliated party committees may be exempt from filing disclosure reports if the committee determines that it does not intend to receive in contributions or in loans or spend more than $1,000 during the election cycle. N.C.G.S. § 163-278.10A. This includes not just the value of monetary contributions, but also the value of in-kind contributions. In order to be exempt from filing disclosure reports, the treasurer of an under threshold committee must file a CRO-3600 Certification of Threshold at the same time the committee files an Organizational Report. A political party committee or affiliated committee that fails to file the CRO-3600 at the appropriate time must file disclosure reports.
If the committee’s intent changes, or the committee actually receives or spends more than $1,000, the committee must immediately file a new CRO-3600 Certification of Threshold reporting the change. The treasurer must also submit the next disclosure report due according to the appropriate reporting schedule. In this report, the committee must disclose all contributions and expenditures not previously reported.
Some political committees are required to file campaign finance reports electronically. N.C.G.S. § 163-278.9(i). The State Board of Elections has developed and maintains free software that enables the storing of all campaign finance information and allows the committee to generate electronic disclosure reports. Political committees may also use third-party products that generate files that meet the file format requirements.
A political committee that spends over $5,000 to affect statewide contests in an election cycle, or raises or spends in excess of $10,000 during the election cycle, is required to file campaign finance reports electronically.
Any political committee may choose to file reports electronically. We encourage committees to file electronically if they are able.
Disclosure reports detail all contributions and expenditures occurring within the reporting period.
At a minimum, committees filing paper reports must submit the CRO-1000 Detailed Report Cover and CRO-1100 Detailed Summary. As you complete the CRO-1100, you will be alerted as to any additional forms that are required. Whether a committee files paper reports or electronic reports, the treasurer must sign and file a CRO-1000 certifying each report as true and correct.
For each contribution, a treasurer must collect the following information for reporting purposes:
- The name and complete mailing address of each contributor;
- The principal occupation of each contributor;
- The amount contributed; and
- The date each contribution was made. N.C.G.S. § 163-278.11(a).
A treasurer is not required to report the name, address, or principal occupation of any individual who contributes $50 or less to the committee during the election. N.C.G.S. § 163-278.11(b). These contributions are reported using form CRO-1205 Aggregated Contributions from Individuals, which discloses only the date, amount and form of payment.
For each expenditure, a treasurer must collect the following information for reporting purposes:
- The name and complete mailing address of each payee;
- The amount paid;
- The purpose; and
- The date each payment was made. N.C.G.S. § 163-278.11(a).
Loan proceeds, outstanding loans, refunds and reimbursements, and debts and obligations must all be closely tracked and reported.
Effective Jan. 1, 2021, no individual or political committee shall contribute in excess of $5,600 to a candidate committee or political committee in any election. N.C.G.S. § 163-278.13.
If there is a primary and a general election, the political committee may receive $5,600 from a contributor between the beginning of the election cycle and the day of the primary, and another $5,600 from the same contributor beginning the day after the primary through the end of the election year.
The fair market value of in-kind contributions counts towards contributions limits.
Any national, state, district or county executive committee of any political party recognized under N.C.G.S. § 163-96 is exempt from contribution limits. Please note that this exemption does not apply to subordinate groups. Subordinate groups, such as a Democratic Men’s Club or a Republican Women’s Club, are subject to contribution limits.
A political committee may not accept any contribution made by a corporation, business entity, labor union, professional association or insurance company. N.C.G.S. § 163-278.15.
PACs organized pursuant to N.C.G.S. § 163-278.19(d) may accept reasonable administrative support from the corporation, business entity, labor union, professional association or insurance company that serves as the parent entity of the PAC. Please see N.C.G.S. § 163-278.19(g) for more information.
Political party executive committees and affiliated party committees may establish a political party headquarters building fund. N.C.G.S. § 163-278.19B. The fund may only be used to make limited expenditures towards a principal headquarters building. If a building fund is established, it may accept donations from corporations, business entities, labor unions, professional associations and insurance companies. Building funds may not be transferred into the operational account for the political party executive committee or affiliated party committee. For more information about how to set up a building fund, please see the Campaign Finance Manual.
Contributions to Certain Candidates for the Council of State and General Assembly
Political committees that employ or contract with a North Carolina lobbyist and political committees whose parent entity employs or contracts with a North Carolina lobbyist may not make contributions to candidates for and members of the Council of State and General Assembly while the North Carolina General Assembly is in regular session. N.C.G.S. § 163-278.13B.
Under N.C.G.S. § 163-278.39, print media, radio, and television advertisements that are a reportable contribution, expenditure, independent expenditure, or electioneering communication must include a legend or statement disclosing certain information about the advertisement.
The disclosure legend shall include the statement, “Paid for by ___ [Name of candidate, candidate committee, political party organization, political action committee referendum committee, or individual].”
After the Election
A political committee may remain active after the election. An active committee must continue to file disclosure reports.
A political committee continues until it winds up operations, disposes of assets, files a final report and files a CRO-3400 Certification to Close Committee. N.C.G.S. § 163-278.6(74). The committee may not close if it still has outstanding penalties from the State Board of Elections.
A political committee that wishes to participate in future elections may go inactive. If no contribution is received or expenditure made during a reporting period, the treasurer may file a CRO-3200 Certification of Inactive Status. N.C.G.S. § 163-278.10. While inactive, the committee is not required to file disclosure reports. If a contribution is received or an expenditure made, the committee must return to active status by filing a CRO-3300 Certification to Return to Active Status. The treasurer must also submit the next disclosure report due according to the appropriate reporting schedule. In this report, the committee must disclose all contributions and expenditures not previously reported.