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California may require political campaigns to name bloggers they've paid

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California’s Fair Political Practices Commission intends to change the state’s government code to require political campaigns to disclose paid bloggers and other social media users they have compensated.

In October, after public hearings, the Commission, which is in charge of maintaining and enforcing election financing rules in the state, proposed to alter the California Code of Regulations to require campaigns to file notice each time they have paid a blogger, Twitter or Facebook user, YouTuber or anyone else using social media to promote a candidate.

The proposed regulation “requires that a (campaign) committee report the following information on its Form 460: name of recipient of payment, name of person providing services, name of websites or web addresses on which the communications (whether, blog, tweet, Facebook, etc.) appear.  The disclosure would apply to all paid communications for Internet”

According to the full text of the change, Section 18421.15, “committees must include as much specificity as possible, including the amount of the payment, the payee, the name of the person providing services, and the name of the Internet publication, blog or website and the URL on which the communications are published.”

Opponents of the change insist it will create an excessive burden on both campaigns and bloggers and will be, in the end, unenforceable.

In a letter to the Commission’s chair, Ann Ravel, the publishers of two of California’s major political blogs argue strongly against the move. Steven Maviglio of The California Majority Report and Joe Fleischman of The FlashReport describe themselves as “(b)eing on the opposite ends of the political spectrum” but in complete agreement on the untenability of this regulation.

Decrying the change as “a solution in search of a problem,” they insist the new law would require “that ANYONE working on a campaign—whether it be the campaign manager, advertising consultant, social media director, field worker, or fundraiser—must report any kind of posting on Twitter, their personal Facebook page, Tumblr, or any other of hundreds of websites if they receive a penny from the committee.”

Merely posting an ad from a political campaign would cause a site to fall into “the wide net of
reporting” the rule casts.

The result, according to critics, would be a “marked chill in some of the most well used sources of communication to engage voters in the democratic process.”

The California Fair Political Practices Commission will accept public written comments until 5pm PT on Oct. 16 and will host a public hearing at 10am on Oct. 18 in Sacramento.

Photo by Pat Pilon/Flickr