Article 22M.

Legal Expense Funds.

163-278.300. Definitions.

As used in this Article, the following terms mean:

(1) Board. - The State Board of Elections.

(2) Renumbered.

(3) Elected officer. - Any individual serving in or seeking a public office. An individual is seeking a public office when that individual has filed any notice, petition, or other document required by law or local act as a condition of election to public office. An individual continues to be an elected officer for purposes of this Article as long as a legal action commenced while the individual was an elected officer continues. If a legal action is commenced after an individual ceases to serve in or seek public office but the legal action concerns subject matter in the individual's official capacity as an elected officer, for purposes of this Article, that individual is an elected officer as long as that legal action continues.

(4) Expenditure. - An expenditure means any purchase, advance, conveyance, deposit, distribution, transfer of funds, loan, payment, gift, pledge, subscription of money, anything of value whatsoever, and any contract, agreement, promise, or other obligation to make an expenditure, by a legal defense fund for a permitted use as provided in G.S. 163-278.320. An expenditure forgiven by a person or entity to whom it is owed shall be reported as a legal expense donation.

(5) Legal action. - A formal dispute in a judicial, legislative, or administrative forum, including but not limited to, a civil or criminal action filed in a court, a complaint or protest filed with a board of elections, an election contest filed under Article 3 of Chapter 120 of the General Statutes or G.S. 163-182.13A, or a complaint filed with the State Ethics Commission or Legislative Ethics Committee. The term "legal action" also includes investigations made or conducted before the commencement of any formal proceedings. The term "legal action" does not include the election itself or the campaign for election.

(5a) Legal expense donation. - A legal expense donation means any advance, conveyance, deposit, distribution, transfer of funds, loan, payment, gift, subscription of money, or anything of value whatsoever, and any contract, agreement, or other obligation to make a contribution to a legal expense fund for a permitted use as provided in G.S. 163-278.320. The term "legal expense donation" does not include either of the following:

a. The provision of legal services to an elected officer by the State or any of its political subdivisions when those services are authorized or required by law, or

b. The provision of free or pro bono legal advice or legal services, provided that any costs incurred or expenses advanced for which clients are liable under other provisions of law shall be deemed legal expense donations.

(6) Legal expense fund. - Any collection of money for the purpose of funding a legal action, or a potential legal action, taken by or against an elected officer in that elected officer's official capacity.

(7) Official capacity. - Related to or resulting from the campaign for public office or related to or resulting from holding public office. "Official capacity" is not limited to "scope and course of employment" as used in G.S. 143-300.3.

(8) Public office. - As defined in G.S. 163-278.6.

(9) Treasurer. - An individual appointed by an elected officer or other individual or group of individuals collecting money for a legal expense fund. (2007-349, s. 1; 2009-534, s. 2(a).)