Code of Virginia

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Code of Virginia
Title 24.2. Elections
Chapter 9.5. Political Campaign Advertisements
5/27/2022

Article 1. General Provisions.

§ 24.2-955. Scope of disclosure requirements.

The disclosure requirements of this 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 under Chapter 9.3 (§ 24.2-945 et seq.) except that the disclosure requirements of this chapter do not apply to (i) an individual who makes independent expenditures aggregating less than $1,000 in an election cycle for or against a candidate for statewide office or less than $200 in an election cycle for or against a candidate for any other office or (ii) an individual who incurs expenses only with respect to a referendum.

2002, c. 487, § 24.2-941; 2006, cc. 787, 892; 2008, c. 825; 2020, c. 551.

§ 24.2-955.1. Definitions.

As used in this chapter, unless the context requires a different meaning:

"Advertisement" means any message appearing in the print media, on television, on radio, or on an online platform, that constitutes a contribution or expenditure under Chapter 9.3 (§ 24.2-945 et seq.). "Advertisement" shall not include novelty items authorized by a candidate including, but not limited to, pens, pencils, magnets, and buttons to be attached to wearing apparel.

"Authorized by ______" means the same as "authorization" as defined in § 24.2-945.1.

"Campaign telephone calls" means a series of telephone calls or text messages, electronic or otherwise, made (i) to 25 or more telephone numbers in the Commonwealth, (ii) during the 180 days before a general or special election or during the 90 days before a primary or other political party nominating event, (iii) conveying or soliciting information relating to any candidate or political party participating in the election, primary or other nominating event, and (iv) under an agreement to compensate the telephone callers.

"Candidate" means "candidate" as defined in § 24.2-101.

"Candidate campaign committee" or "campaign committee" means "campaign committee" as defined in § 24.2-945.1.

"Coordinated" or "coordination" means an expenditure that is made (i) at the express request or suggestion of a candidate, a candidate's campaign committee, or an agent of the candidate or his campaign committee or (ii) with material involvement of the candidate, a candidate's campaign committee, or an agent of the candidate or his campaign committee in devising the strategy, content, means of dissemination, or timing of the expenditure.

"Conspicuous" means so written, displayed, or communicated that a reasonable person ought to have noticed it.

"Full-screen" means the only picture appearing on the television screen during the oral disclosure statement that (i) contains the disclosing person, (ii) occupies all visible space on the television screen, and (iii) contains the image of the disclosing person that occupies at least 50% of the vertical height of the television screen.

"Independent expenditure" means "independent expenditure" as defined in § 24.2-945.1.

"Name of candidate" means (i) the full name of the candidate as it appears on the statement of qualification filed pursuant to § 24.2-501 or as it will appear on the ballot or (ii) the first name, middle name, or "nickname" of the candidate as it appears on his statement of qualification and a last name of the candidate as it appears on his statement of qualification.

"Occurrence" means one broadcast of a radio or television political campaign advertisement.

"Online platform" means any public-facing website, web application, or digital application, including a social network, ad network, or search engine, that sells advertisements.

"Online political advertisement" means an advertisement that is placed or promoted for a fee on an online platform.

"Online political advertiser" means any person who purchases an advertisement from an online platform or promotes an advertisement on an online platform for a fee.

"Political action committee" means "political action committee" as defined in § 24.2-945.1.

"Political committee" means "political committee" as defined in § 24.2-945.1.

"Political party" has the same meaning as "party" or "political party" as defined in § 24.2-101.

"Political party committee" means any state political party committee, congressional district political party committee, county or city political party committee, or organized political party group of elected officials. The term shall not include any other organization or auxiliary associated with or using the name of a political party.

"Print media" means billboards, cards, newspapers, newspaper inserts, magazines, printed material disseminated through the mail, pamphlets, fliers, bumper stickers, periodicals, websites, electronic mail, non-video or non-audio messages placed or promoted for a fee on an online platform, yard signs, and outdoor advertising facilities. If a single print media advertisement consists of multiple pages, folds, or faces, the disclosure requirement of this section applies only to one page, fold, or face.

"Radio" means any radio broadcast station that is subject to the provisions of 47 U.S.C. §§ 315 and 317.

"Scan line" means a standard term of measurement used in the electronic media industry calculating a certain area in a television advertisement.

"Sponsor" means a candidate, candidate campaign committee, political committee, or person that purchases an advertisement.

"Telephone call" means any single telephone call or text message, electronic or otherwise, that when combined with other telephone calls or text messages constitutes campaign telephone calls.

"Television" means any television broadcast station, cable television system, wireless-cable multipoint distribution system, satellite company, or telephone company transmitting video programming that is subject to the provisions of 47 U.S.C. §§ 315 and 317.

"Unobscured" means that the only printed material that may appear on the television screen is a visual disclosure statement required by law, and that nothing is blocking the view of the disclosing person's face.

"Yard sign" means a sign paid for or distributed by a candidate, campaign committee, or political committee to be placed on public or private property. Yard signs paid for or distributed prior to July 1, 2015, shall not be subject to the provisions of §§ 24.2-956 and 24.2-956.1.

2002, c. 487, § 24.2-942; 2003, c. 237; 2006, cc. 787, 892; 2015, c. 573; 2020, cc. 551, 554, 615.

§ 24.2-955.2. Publications not to receive compensation for advocating candidacy; penalties.

A. It shall be unlawful for any owner, proprietor, editor, manager, officer, clerk, agent, reporter, or employee of any newspaper, magazine, or periodical printed or published in this Commonwealth to accept or receive or agree to accept or receive, for himself or another, any money or other valuable consideration for such newspaper, magazine, or other periodical supporting or advocating the election or defeat of any candidate. But nothing in this section shall prevent any person, firm, or corporation engaged in the publication of any newspaper, magazine or periodical from receiving from any person compensation for printing and publishing any matter, article or articles advocating the election or defeat of any candidate, if a statement, "Paid Advertisement," appears in plain type in boldface Roman capitals in a conspicuous place at the beginning of the matter or article and the matter or article otherwise complies with the provisions of this chapter.

B. The person accepting a "Paid Advertisement" for the newspaper, magazine or periodical shall require, and for one year shall retain a copy of, proof of the identity of the person who submits the advertisement for publication when the authorization statement on the advertisement is made pursuant to this chapter by an individual or entity other than a candidate, candidate campaign committee, political party committee, or political action committee. Proof of identity shall be submitted either (i) in person and include a valid Virginia driver's license, or any other identification card issued by a government agency of the Commonwealth, one of its political subdivisions, or the United States, or (ii) other than in person, in which case, the person submitting the advertisement shall provide a telephone number and the person accepting the advertisement may phone the person to verify the validity of the person's identifying information before publishing the advertisement. Any candidate clearly identified in the advertisement is entitled to the name of the person who submitted the advertisement after the publication of the advertisement in the newspaper, magazine, or periodical.

C. Any such owner, proprietor, editor, manager, officer, clerk, agent, reporter, or employee violating the provisions of subsection A or B shall be subject to a civil penalty not to exceed $50; and, in the case of a willful violation, he shall be guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor. The procedure to enforce the civil penalty provided in this section shall be as stated in Article 8 (§ 24.2-953 et seq.) of Chapter 9.3.

Code 1950, § 24-406; 1952, c. 4; 1970, c. 462, § 24.1-276; 1991, c. 709; 1993, c. 641, § 24.2-1013; 2001, c. 747; 2002, c. 487; 2006, cc. 787, 892; 2008, c. 825.

§ 24.2-955.3. Penalties for violations of this chapter.

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.

2002, c. 487, §§ 24.2-943, 24.2-944; 2003, c. 237; 2004, cc. 55, 457; 2005, c. 369; 2006, cc. 787, 892; 2010, c. 546.