FPPC imposes regulation on political bloggers

FPPC imposes regulation on political bloggers

The California Fair Political Practices Commission just ruled this week to require campaign committees to report to the State who they pay to post “favorable or unfavorable” content on blogs, social media or online videos, on their campaign finance statements.



The committees will also have to report the name of the website where the content appears.

The long arm of the government has found a chilling new way to intimidate new-media.

Political bloggers writing online will be subjected to new disclosure rules under state regulations the Fair Political Practices Commission approved Thursday.

Here's how the State, under California Code Section 82013, defines a “committee”:

“Committee” means any person or combination of persons who directly or indirectly does any, of the following: (a) Receives contributions totaling one thousand dollars ($1,000) or more in a calendar year. (b) Makes independent expenditures totaling one thousand dollars ($1,000) or more in a calendar year; or (c) Makes contributions totaling ten thousand dollars ($10,000) or more in a calendar year to or at the behest of candidates or committees. A person or combination of persons that becomes a committee shall retain its status as a committee until such time as that status is terminated pursuant to Section 84214.

Any writer who receives indirectly or directly, $1,000 or more, will be subjected to this state-required reporting. The FPPC claims this is to corral the campaigns, but it's really aimed at political writers.

That could mean non-profit journalism, which is supported through voluntary donations, will now be under mandatory reporting by the State. (Full disclosure: CalWatchDog.com's parent think tank, the Pacific Research Institute, is a nonprofit.)

Conflict of interest lobbying and Capitol staff

Adding another twist to California's new FPPC regulation, The Sacramento Bee reported Democratic consultant Steven Maviglio, who is also the Communications Director for Assembly Speaker John Perez, has been involved in the decision-making process.

The Bee left Maviglio's Assembly job out of the story. He is paid $9,500 a month by the California Legislature for the part-time job.

“Democratic campaign consultant Steven Maviglio, who writes for the California Majority Report blog and has been working with the FPPC on the regulations for more than a year, said he was unhappy with the final product,” the Bee reported Thursday evening.

“The goal has always been righteous,” Maviglio said. “Implementation is going to be an avalanche of paperwork that is unenforceable.”

Maviglio's “work” with the FPPC on this new regulation is highly suspect. As Communications Director for the Assembly Leader, he does more than just write press releases. He advises the leader on the potential fallout or benefits of certain legislation. And he reports the pulse of the other Assembly members, as well as the constituents they represent. Maviglio plays a big role in influencing what happens in the Assembly.

There is a legislative manual which states a “consultant” like Maviglio can't have clients or do outside business with while on the state payroll, especially where there might be the slightest hint of a conflict of interest, according to a Capitol source who asked to remain unnamed for this story.

History repeating

Maviglio is not alone. Infamous political consultant Richie Ross helped Democrats get elected, and then proceeded to lobby them unabashedly at the Capitol. This went on for decades. He vehemently defended his duel roles, and insisted there was no conflict in his interests.

In 2003, Democratic Assembly Speaker Herb Wesson appointed a task force to address what he referred to as a growing problem of aggressive lobbying tactics and conflict of interest by political consultants who lobby legislators they helped elect. He had Richie Ross in mind after Ross verbally abused the staff members of two legislators who refused to vote against a bill that was of interest to one of his lobbying clients, the United Farm Workers Union, CalState News reported.

In 2006, Gale Kaufman, a top political strategist to Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez and the California Teachers Association Union, returned to the state payroll as a consultant to the speaker's office, Capitol Weekly reported.

“'I'm only working part time. I can still rake in the big bucks on the outside,' Kaufman joked in a conversation with Capitol Weekly. “'I'm in and out of [the Assembly] all the time. This time around, for the next little while, I'll be doing some more work, so I decided to go on the payroll.'”

“Kaufman even has a small office on the third floor of the Assembly annex, around the corner from the Assembly floor,” Capitol Weekly found. “She says she will be working out of the office part time.”

The conflict lies with the revolving door between political parties, labor unions, consultants, and paid staff, and rarely with the people doing the writing, reporting and exposing.

But now, Maviglio and his political ilk have influenced more than the Assembly leadership — they've gone in through the back door of the state, into the bowels of state code, in an attack on dissent.


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