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Wyatt Fined For Campaign Ad, But Escapes More Expensive Charges

Virginia’s Board of Elections fined House of Delegates candidate Scott Wyatt $100 on Tuesday for failing to disclose he paid for yard signs, even as he dodged more expensive fines over a campaign phone call.

The fine comes as Wyatt is locked in a bitter primary contest against Del. Chris Peace (R-Mechanicsville), with the candidates disagreeing even on the format of the nominating process. Wyatt has appealed a local GOP committee’s decision to cancel a planned nominating convention in favor of a firehouse primary.

Under Virginia’s Stand By Your Ads law, candidates have to say if they paid for a campaign ad. Wyatt’s yard signs and the recorded phone call failed to do that.

But state law defines “campaign phone calls” as 25 or more calls, and the board received a single recording of a call. And so while Wyatt’s most recent campaign disclosures show a $364 payment to a campaign marketing firm for “data and phone calls,” Board chair Robert Brink wasn’t convinced that was proof they made 25 calls.

“I have to say I have concerns about the proof element of 25 or more calls, and extrapolating from the campaign finance report.” Brink, a former Democratic delegate, said at the meeting.

Wyatt’s campaign manager, Tanner Bonovitch, agreed with the decision.

“This is a frivolous complaint coordinated by our opponent's campaign, nitpicking about one single phone call by a volunteer,” Bonovitch said in a statement.

Bonovitch did apologize to the board for not properly labeling the yard signs with a “Paid for by Wyatt for Delegate” disclaimer.

In a recording of the call, a man who identifies himself as Craig DeCessa says he’s “calling on behalf of Scott Wyatt.”

“Scott hopes to have your support at the upcoming Republican convention in May,” DeCessa says, before listing Wyatt’s phone number.


Ben Paviour covers courts and criminal justice for VPM News with a focus on accountability.
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