Political bloggers paid by campaigns will be subject to new regulations from California’s Fair Political Practices Commission.
For months the FPPC has been mulling ways to regulate the campaign blogosphere. At its June meeting, the commission considered a draft regulation to provides the public with an “easy-to-use means of determining who is being paid to provide Internet content for campaigns.” The FPPC considered the matter again at its August 22 meeting.
On Thursday, after making minor changes, they decided in favor of the proposed regulation
The new regulation requires a campaign committee to make additional expenditure reporting to inform the public when it “pays a person to provide favorable or unfavorable content about a candidate or ballot measure on an Internet site other than the committee’s own website.”
However, reporting is not required if the content contains a disclaimer such as: “The author was paid by the Committee to Re-Elect Mayor Jane Doe in connection with this posting.”
They defined content as anything offered on a website or other digital platform in writing, picture, video, photograph or other similar format.
“The purpose of the regulation is to provide meaningful disclosure and prevent obfuscation of who is funding communications on the Internet, which is fast becoming a primary source of information,” FPPC attorneys Zackery Morazzini and Heather Rowan wrote in a memo.
The issue of bloggers on the payroll came to the commission’s attention after an incident in the 2010 GOP gubernatorial primary campaign. That’s when it was uncovered that consultant Steve Frank’s Eagle Group, who was employed by Steve Poizner, paid a blogger who went by the name Sgt. York to post criticism of Meg Whiman on the now-defunct Red County Blog. After being revealed as a campaign-paid writer, the blogger was subsequently ejected from the site.
Campaign consultants were quick to register their displeasure.
“Implementation is going to be an avalanche of paperwork that is unenforceable,” said Steven Maviglio, a Democratic consultant and blogger, according to the Modesto Bee. “Technology is going to leave this regulation behind before the next election season begins.”
GOP consultant Rob Stutzman called it a “ridiculous regulatory road block.”
“If that’s distasteful to people that a blogger is paid to opine in a certain way, this regulation is not going to stop that,” he said at the FPPC’s meeting in Sacramento Thursday.
Also on Thursday, the commission announced it fined California Strategies $40,500 for principals Jason Kinney, Rusty Areias and Winston Hickox failing to register as lobbyists.