Lunsford’s letter: Bypass Truth Coalition violated law, but not enough to prosecute

Lunsford’s letter: Bypass Truth Coalition violated law, but not enough to prosecute

Did the Bypass Truth Coalition violate state election law by advocating for the defeat of two Bypass-supporting Albemarle County Supervisors without proper disclosure of its finances? Lone remaining Republican Supervisor Ken Boyd thought so, and Albemarle County Commonwealth’s Attorney Denise Lunsford has now agreed, but she’s not going to prosecute.

In a seven-page letter dated February 18 and sent to officials in the Office of the Attorney General, the State Board of Elections and the Department of Agriculture, Lunsford explained the findings of her investigation that the Coalition specifically advocated for the defeat of Bypass-supporting Republican supes Duane Snow and Rodney Thomas in pre-election advertising without filing required paperwork.

The Campaign Finance Act of 2006 requires that a person, defined as an individual or corporation, who donates or pays more than $200 to expressly endorse for the election or defeat of a candidate must file a disclosure form with the election board in the locality where the election is being held. That form, an Independent Expenditure Report, is supposed to detail the amount of money spent on express advocacy for or against candidates, and certify that the expenditures were not at the request or suggestion of a candidate.

Lunsford found that much of the Coalition’s media blitz, which included print, radio, and television ads as well as Facebook posts, did not reflect express advocacy. However, one did: a radio spot that names Snow and Thomas asks listeners to “hold them accountable” and “vote for new leadership.” Because the spot cost more than $200, the Coalition should have filed the report. But despite her finding, Lunsford wrote that there is no evidence that the Coalition’s failure to file the paperwork was “willful,” a standard required for criminal prosecution.

Boyd said he understood Lunsford’s decision not to prosecute, but hoped she followed up with letters to the state election board and to CATCo explaining that they were required to file the necessary documents.

That’s what it came down to for him, Boyd said. His concerns weren’t about politics, or the election of his political rivals.

“My complaint was never with the candidates. It was just with the CATCo group, the Coalition. I thought they should follow election laws, because they were advocating to defeat some candidates.”
And anyway, he said, “I’m not a person who believes these people got elected as a referendum on the Bypass. I think the election was about turnout.”
Read the letter here:

Bypass Truth Coalition Lunsford Letter