NC: Money from GOP 9/11 fundraiser spent on political activity would likely violate campaign finance laws

Posted on: September 24th, 2010 by The American Independent 1 Comment

Any proceeds from a fundraiser held at the Bee Tree fire station in Swannanoa on September 11 by the Buncombe County GOP spent on political activities would likely result in campaign finance violations, says Adam Ragan, campaign finance compliance specialist with the North Carolina State Board of Elections.

The Swannanoa Fire Department (which oversees Bee Tree) receives federal funding and local tax dollars, making its facilities off-limits for political fundraisers unless the facility is reimbursed for use of the facility. Anthony Penland, chief of the Swannanoa Fire Department, told the North Carolina Independent News that no fee was paid for use of the facility by the Buncombe County GOP. Penland said he thought the fundraiser was to “raise money for cancer,” and that he was unaware that the fundraiser would benefit the local Republican Party. Penland added that, “we don’t charge for people to use our facility. I’m not a political guy, Democrats, Republicans whoever are welcome to use it.”

Buncombe County GOP chair Chad Nesbitt has not returned calls for comment.

Ragan, in a written statement to NCIN, said he needs to see the Buncombe County GOP’s Third Quarter Plus Report, which should be filed on or around October 25, 2010, before he can pinpoint any violations.

It appears the party has both a federal and state political committee that raises and spends money for either federal or state activity. The Federal Election Commission would have jurisdiction over anything related to the federal committee…

Since campaign finance reports have not been filed by either the state or federal Buncombe County Republican Party committee, I have no way of knowing which committee received the contributions related to this fundraiser.

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Generally, in-kind or monetary contributions to political committee from governmental entities would be prohibited, but again, I can’t answer that completely until I know what committee (federal or state) received the benefit from this fundraiser.

The Swannanoa Fire Department receives funding from various government agencies including a SAFER grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The department received $731,403 on February 29, 2008, to fund firefighters. In addition, a “fire tax” of 12 cents per $100 of property valuation is assessed to those living in the Swannanoa Fire District.

Nesbitt said in a video promoting the fundraiser that the money raised would be used for political purposes. “The money generated from your sponsorship will go to advertising in the media and our guerrilla marketing campaign to get the voters energized to vote.” (Nesbitt also said in the video that part of the proceeds would go to a cancer charity, Hunt for the Cure. As of Thursday, Hunt for the Cure had not received word on the money.)

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