CfA Requests NC State Board of Elections Issue Advisory Opinion on Speaker Tim Moore Campaign Payouts
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 18, 2023
Contact: Michael Clauw, email@example.com, 202.780.5750
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, nonprofit watchdog group Campaign for Accountability (CfA) asked the North Carolina State Board of Elections (NCSBE) for an advisory opinion explaining whether North Carolina law permits candidates to use campaign funds to pay rent for office space either partly or entirely used for non-campaign related purposes. Additionally, CfA asked whether a candidate’s campaign committees may pay rent for office space either to the candidate directly or to an entity controlled or directed by the candidate.
CfA’s questions stem from campaign disclosures showing that Friends of Tim Moore, North Carolina Speaker of the House Tim Moore’s campaign committee, appears to have made at least $69,300 in office rent payments to “Tim Moore Attorney at Law” for office space that appears entirely – or at least predominately – occupied by Moore’s private law practice.
CfA Executive Director Michelle Kuppersmith said, “It’s unclear why House Speaker Tim Moore’s campaign is paying Moore what appears to be full market value rent for use of a building that he both owns outright and uses for his private law practice. North Carolinians deserve transparency on this issue, which is why we asked the Board of Elections to clarify whether Moore, effectively, can use campaign funds to pay himself rent.”
In addition to his duties as a member of the state legislature, Moore is a licensed attorney with a law office in Kings Mountain, NC, which, property records indicate, he owns personally without a mortgage. Located at 305 E. King Street, the property has a large sign in its front yard that reads “Tim Moore Attorney at Law.”
From July 2019 to at least June 2023, Moore’s campaign committee made consistent monthly rent payments to “Tim Moore Attorney at Law,” of either $1000 or $1500, reported on campaign finance disclosure forms as “Campaign office rent,” “Office Rent,” and similar variations. Despite the legal practice’s clear presence on this property, the rent payments appear to be commensurate with the fair market rent for entire property..
CfA’s letter cites multiple advisory opinions covering analogous circumstances in which the Board determined the use of campaign funds was not appropriate. The Board previously has held it is inappropriate to use campaign funds for expenses incurred regardless of candidacy, such as regular childcare. Similarly, Moore’s lucrative legal practice would require office space regardless of his role as a candidate or public official. The sign in front of the office and the voicemail reached when calling the number listed on said sign clearly indicate the building houses Moore’s legal practice.
In an opinion regarding the appropriate use of campaign funds for childcare expenses, NCSBE wrote that it is up to lawmakers to “obtain documentation and to appropriately account for the caregiving expenses that result from […] campaign [activities] versus the caregiving expenditures that result from non-campaign activities.” Analogizing, CfA also asked the NCSBE to clarify whether, if Moore’s campaign committee actually is using some of the office space, Moore would be required to submit documentation distinguishing the portion of 305 E. King St. used by the campaign, versus the portion allocated to his private law practice, and explain the rent charged.
Irrespective of the percentage of space being used, Moore’s decision to use campaign funds to pay himself is also questionable. After a previous scandal, the NCSBE issued a rule prohibiting candidates and office holders from using campaign funds to purchase, lease, rent, or make mortgage payments on residential property owned either directly or indirectly by the candidate or officeholder, even if a portion of the residence is used for the campaign or holding office. Prior to this ruling, Speaker Moore’s campaign committee reimbursed him for rent at a residential condo in Raleigh that he owned.
Ms. Kuppersmith continued, “Speaker Moore’s office payments may be an attempt to skirt the Board of Elections’ explicit prohibition on self-reimbursement for residential property. For the benefit of North Carolina citizens, we ask the Board of Elections to rule on these issues expeditiously.”
Campaign for Accountability is a nonpartisan, nonprofit watchdog organization that uses research, litigation, and aggressive communications to expose misconduct and malfeasance in public life and hold those who act at the expense of the public good accountable for their actions.