Citizens for Property Rights members are electioneering without being organized as a political organization, according to a Loudoun County political action committee.
The attorney defending CPR asked the committee to point out election and candidate activity that would be cause for the allegations.
"If they don't want to play by the rules, then get out of the game," said Joseph "Joe" Maio, spokesman for Voters to Stop Sprawl, a group founded in 1999 that has two officials, a president and treasurer, and more than 200 members.
A Loudoun judge entered an order last week approving the appointment of a special prosecutor, John Notarianni of the Prince William County Commonwealth attorney's office, to review the group's allegations that Citizens for Property Rights (CPR) violated the state election law. The group filed the allegations two weeks ago. Notarianni was out of his office until Tuesday and was not available to comment.
Maio said CPR is electioneering by naming elected officials, falsely publicizing their activities and trying to influence the voters. "The CPR president said he plans to run for the Board of Supervisor's chair. Clearly, that is electioneering," Maio said. "In Virginia, political action committees are allowed to do this."
POLITICAL ACTION committees, such as his group, have to report their income and expenditures, Maio said. The non-partisan group supports several anti-sprawl measures and helps elect candidates, regardless of political party, who favor stopping over development in the county, according to the group's web site. The group regularly reports funding sources and amounts, Maio said.
"I would challenge CPR to tell the people of Loudoun County who supports them, who funds the sewer-y ads they produce," Maio said. "They are acting like a secret Gestapo organization with sneak attacks on the Board of Supervisors. They should come clear what their mission is."
"They should open up their books so the citizens of Loudoun County can find out whose funding that campaign of smears and lies," said Board Chairman Scott York (R-At Large).
Jack Shockey, CPR president, did not comment about the allegations and referred comments to Tom Plofchan, Jr. Sterling attorney representing the group.
Plofchan said Voters to Stop Sprawl claimed CPR violated the Campaign Finance Disclosure Act, applied to political committees that raise money for elections or to influence the elections.
“What election? What campaign? Where’s the applicability of the act?” said Plofchan, of Plofchan and Associates. “Why is the commonwealth attorney involved? Because he gets his name in the paper. … If there are no elections and no candidates, CPR cannot be governed by the act.”
CPR MEMBER Patricia Shockey, who spoke at the Board of Supervisors meeting Tuesday, agreed. She made her comments after three members of Voters to Stop Sprawl spoke with Halloween masks over their faces. One of the members, Valerie Kelly, who later removed the mask, said CPR uses masks to hide how CPR’s full-page advertisements and mailers are funded.
“What are these mailers and advertisements trying to accomplish? They want to turn voters against you, the supervisors. They want to make you slow down or stop your smart growth efforts. They want to intimidate you,” Kelly said.
Shockey said during her turn for public comment, “We’ve never worn a mask.” Shockey said CPR has invited board members to its fund-raisers, raises money from family and friends and that CPR is not a political action group.
“What’s the problem? Could it be you take CPR on because we disagree with you? You can count on CPR to continue to dissent with you,” Shockey said. “My answer to you, Scott, and Voters to Stop Sprawl is bring it on.”
Waterford farmer Donald Evans asked the board why the proposed fiscal year 2003 plan includes $1 million for a legal defense fund. “If you’re not doing anything wrong, why did you need so much money in a legal defense fund?”
York said the fund will be used to protect the county from lawsuits from developers.
“Many of those developers have been contributors to CPR. We as citizens ought to know who’s running their campaign,” York said.
Maio said members of Voters to Stop Sprawl, unlike CPR members, are not developers or land speculators. “They are not running for office. CPR is. There is a big difference in moral positions of the two groups, and the legal requirements of the two groups,” he said.