It’s election day, and Democrat Ned Gallaway has a sign problem.
Running for Albemarle County Supervisor in the Rio District, Gallaway has broken a cardinal rule of campaigning: he neglected to list the legally required attribution on his campaign signs.
Virginia Law states specific requirements for print media, to wit:
§ 24.2-956. Requirements for print media advertisements sponsored by a candidate campaign committee.
It shall be unlawful for any candidate or candidate campaign committee to sponsor a print media advertisement that constitutes an expenditure or contribution required to be disclosed under Chapter 9.3 (§ 24.2-945 et seq.) unless all of the following conditions are met:
1. It bears the legend or includes the statement: “Paid for by _______________ [Name of candidate or campaign committee].” Alternatively, if the advertisement is supporting a candidate who is the sponsor and the advertisement makes no reference to any other clearly identified candidate, then the statement “Paid for by _______________ [Name of sponsor]” may be replaced by the statement “Authorized by _______________ [Name of sponsor].”
2. In an advertisement sponsored by a candidate or a candidate campaign committee that makes reference to any other clearly identified candidate who is not sponsoring the advertisement, the sponsor shall state whether it is authorized by the candidate not sponsoring the advertisement. The visual legend in the advertisement shall state either “Authorized by [Name of candidate], candidate for [Name of office]” or “Not authorized by any other candidate.” This subdivision does not apply if the sponsor of the advertisement is the candidate the advertisement supports or that candidate’s campaign committee.
3. If an advertisement is jointly sponsored, the disclosure statement shall name all the sponsors.
4. Any disclosure statement required by this section shall be displayed in a conspicuous manner in a minimum font size of seven point.
5. Any print media advertisement appearing in electronic format shall display the disclosure statement in a minimum font size of seven point; however, if the advertisement lacks sufficient space for a disclosure statement in a minimum font size of seven point, the advertisement may meet disclosure requirements if, by clicking on the print media advertisement appearing in electronic format, the viewer is taken to a landing page or a home page that displays the disclosure statement in a conspicuous manner.
According to Virginia Code § 24.2-955.3 (A), Lawless Ned Gallaway could be subject to a fine not exceeding $2500:
Title 24.2 – Elections
Chapter 9.5 – Political Campaign Advertisements
§ 24.2-955.3. Penalties for violations of this chapter
Universal Citation: VA Code § 24.2-955.3 (2016)
A. Any sponsor violating Article 2 (§ 24.2-956 et seq.) of this chapter shall be subject to (i) a civil penalty not to exceed $1,000; or (ii) in the case of a violation occurring within the 14 days prior to or on the election day of the election to which the advertisement pertains, a civil penalty not to exceed $2,500. In the case of a willful violation, he shall be guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor.
B. Any sponsor violating Article 3 (§ 24.2-957 et seq.) or 4 (§ 24.2-958 et seq.) of this chapter shall be subject to (i) a civil penalty not to exceed $1,000 per occurrence; or (ii) in the case of a violation occurring within the 14 days prior to or on the election day of the election to which the advertisement pertains, a civil penalty not to exceed $2,500 per occurrence. In the case of a willful violation, he shall be guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor. In no event shall the total civil penalties imposed for multiple broadcasts of one particular campaign advertisement exceed $10,000.
C. Any person violating Article 5 (§ 24.2-959 et seq.) of this chapter shall be subject to a civil penalty not to exceed $2,500; and in the case of a willful violation, he shall be guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor. A violation of the provisions of Article 5 of this chapter shall not void any election.
D. The State Board, in a public hearing, shall determine whether to find a violation of this chapter and to assess a civil penalty. At least 10 days prior to such hearing, the State Board shall send notice by certified mail to persons whose actions will be reviewed at such meeting and may be subject to civil penalty. Notice shall include the time and date of the meeting, an explanation of the violation, and the maximum civil penalty that may be assessed.
E. It shall not be deemed a violation of this chapter if the contents of the disclosure legend or statement convey the required information.
F. Any civil penalties collected pursuant to an action under this section shall be payable to the State Treasurer for deposit to the general fund. The procedure to enforce the civil penalties provided in this section shall be as stated in § 24.2-946.3.
Even John Miska, a political newcomer running in opposition to Gallaway as a write-in candidate, knows that campaign advertising need attribution, and he has included it on his signage.
Gallaway—a seasoned political candidate— is suffering from either a delusional sense of political entitlement or an inexcusable ignorance of Virginia campaign law. Neither bodes well for his presumptive service on the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors.