Two IW 2023 candidates face ‘Stand By Your Ad’ fines

Published 7:56 pm Tuesday, April 2, 2024

The Virginia Board of Elections, on March 19, assessed minor fines against two Isle of Wight County candidates who ran unsuccessfully in 2023 elections for violations of Virginia’s so-called “Stand By Your Ad” law.

The state law, which dates to 2002, requires candidates’ print and electronic advertisements bear a disclaimer stating who paid for them.

When Chris Torre of Smithfield learned through Facebook last fall that three of his yard signs and one postcard lacked “paid for” disclaimers, he asked his campaign volunteers to handwrite the required verbiage on the ones they’d put up.

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Multiple people had snapped photos of the signs and sent them to the Department of Elections using an online complaint form to report stand-by-your-ad violations.

A month after sending him a summons in the mail, the board fined an apologetic Torre $25 at its March 19 meeting. The board assessed the same amount for Denise Tynes, who in November lost her Smithfield-centric District 1 School Board seat to challenger Brandi Perkins. 

According to an August complaint by Heidi Swartz, who’d managed Perkins’ campaign, Tynes’ signs had said “paid for by the candidate” though the law requires the disclaimer state the candidate’s name.

“I’m not a first-time candidate, but this is the first time this has happened to me,” Tynes told the board. She’d previously run for School Board, and won, in 2011 and 2019, and served two consecutive terms on Smithfield’s Town Council from 2012 to 2020.

Complaints against Torre, who’d mounted a write-in campaign for the District 1 Board of Supervisors seat against Renee Rountree, included four by Rountrree herself, five by Isle of Wight Republican Party Chairman Bill Yoakum and two by husband and wife Gary and Minette Brooks of Smithfield.

There were 23 total stand-by-your-ad complaints filed against five 2023 county-level candidates from Isle of Wight, though only Torre’s and Tynes’ were deemed valid. The others, according to Department of Elections spokeswoman Andrea Gaines, “did not meet the requirements to come before the State Board of Elections.” Swartz submitted 11 of the 23. Yoakum also submitted a complaint that the board did not act upon.

The requirements for a complaint to be deemed legitimate, Gaines said, are threefold. The candidate’s ads must violate Chapter 9.5 of Title 24.2 in the Code of Virginia, the sponsor or content of the ad must fall “within the scope of Chapter 9.5” and the complaint must be filled out completely, Gaines said.

State law specifies that the disclosure requirements specified in the referenced chapter apply “to any sponsor of an advertisement in the print media, on radio or television, or placed or promoted for a fee on an online platform, the cost or value of which constitutes an expenditure or contribution required to be disclosed” on Virginia’s campaign finance reports.