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Editorial: PACs must be registered

People distributing fliers for candidates in this fallís municipal elections should review laws regarding political action committees, or PACs. Activists who ignore the law risk hurting their cause more than they help.
Someone taped flyers to the front doors of Salisbury residences over the weekend, endorsing a slate that includes two incumbents, two official challengers and a write-in candidate. ěPaid for by concerned citizens of Salisbury,î says a line at the bottom of the page.
Who is that? Good question.
Nancy Evans, elections director for Rowan County, said the flier was brought to her attention Monday morning. As a courtesy, she said, her office contacted a person believed to be responsible, and the necessary paperwork was being filled out by Monday afternoon. She declined to name the individual.
ěI donít think they wanted to not comply,î Evans said. Instead, they were not familiar with the law. The group has 10 days to comply, she said, so no oneís in trouble.
For others who might want to organize on behalf of a candidate or group of candidates, requirements are spelled out on the state and local board of elections websites. (In Rowan, go to http://www.co.rowan.nc.us/ and proceed from there.) Hereís an excerpt under the heading, ěOrganizing the committee.î
A group or combination of two or more individuals whose major purpose is to support or oppose one or more clearly identified candidates or candidates of a clearly identified political party is a political committee (PAC). In order for political committees (PACs) to support or oppose candidates in North Carolina, they must first register with the appropriate board of elections office. For political committees (PACs) supporting or opposing candidates within a single county or municipality, organization would take place at the county board of elections office.
Freedom of speech allows people to say what they want. But when it comes to organizing endorsements and distributing flyers, voters have a right to know whoís bankrolling the effort, even if the source is more like a piggybank than a bank account.
Thatís why candidates have to report the donations their campaigns receive ó no anonymous, pass-the-hat contributions and no cash contributions over $50, only checks. The reporting requirements may seem excessive to politicos, but knowing where a candidateís support comes from is a good indicator of where his or her own efforts will go.

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