Politicians must now divulge payments to bloggers

September 21, 2013
Illustration accompanying Craigslist ad for PR 'blogger'

Illustration accompanying
Craigslist ad for PR ‘blogger’


California’s political watchdog initiated a new rule this week requiring politicians to disclose payments made to people or companies receiving remuneration to blog positively about them, or negatively about their opponents. The rule likely will impact some local activities.

The one exception to the rule is if the paid blog comes with a disclosure – “Paid by Friends of Jane Doe.” In that case, a campaign would be exempted from reporting the payment.

The Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) approved the new rule three years after Republican gubernatorial nominee Meg Whitman paid several bloggers for content, said Heather Rowan, the FPPC attorney who wrote the new regulation.

“We had a couple of people running blogs, and the assumption was they were neutral parties. And as time went on, unfortunately after the election, people found out the content had been paid for by particular campaigns,” Rowan told the Washington Post. “The average consumer would assume neutrality when reading something that looks like a news story.”

In February, Tom Fulks, a political strategist for San Luis Obispo County Supervisor Bruce Gibson, started a blog he dubbed “SLOSense.” That occurred just after Gibson’s controversial affair with his legislative assistant became public.

“Everything posted on this site is opinion – commentary,” Fulks writes on his blog. “Do not take anything you read here as gospel. SLOSense will register as a political action committee in due course, in compliance with all applicable rules and regulations.”

Last March, a public relations job listing on Craigslist anonymously sought a San Luis Obispo “publicity professional.” The position was described as blogging to “defy slander and false accusations,” and offered compensation of $30 to $50 an hour. The ad sought someone “to protect our clients and fight off the greedy, the angry, and the crazy.”

The ad, accompanied by a “blind” email, has since been removed, but here’s the entire text of the Craigslist posting:


“The selected professional will participate in slander defense and reputation cases in service to our clients. You will work with our team to craft public responses to defy slander and false accusations. You will work with our attorneys, investigators, and case managers to build effective campaigns to stop the attacks and reverse the claims and to recapture public opinion. You will have substantial experience using social media and other online communications and have a well-developed network of relevant connections;

“We are a dynamic company made up of case managers, attorneys, private investigators and public relations professionals driven to protect the reputations of our clients. In our fast, connected, everywhere society, career-destroying slander and false accusations are becoming far more prevalent and exceedingly more damaging. We are an organized instrument to protect our clients and fight off the greedy, the angry, and the crazy;

“The requirements of this position include:

“Experienced publicist/public relations agent specializing in promoting and defending individuals’ reputations;

“Skilled at using social media, the press, blogs, twitter, community moderators, etc., to develop creative ways to take charge of the message and influence opinion;

“Excellent writing skills, accomplished communicator, with a proven ability to influence with the keyboard;

“Good contact network, strong relationships with relevant media that can be used to promote our clients with national, regional or local coverage;

“Work on high-profile cases with high-profile clients, with a team of skilled professional managers, attorneys and investigators;

“Established freelancer, comfortable working from home or your own office while able to maintain focus and discipline and work with team members across the country;

“Location, San Luis Obispo. Compensation, $30-50 per hour, depending on experience. Telecommuting OK. This is a contract job. Principals only. Please, no phone calls about this job! Do not contact job poster about other services, products or commercial interests.”




Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

It could have been an infinitely more interesting and valuable story had the reporter actually applied for the position to learn who was doing the hiring and what the actual work entailed. But that would have involved investigative journalism, not trolling on craigslist, which anyone can do with automated search software.

Also disappointing to bring in Tom Fulk’s website, without also mentioning al the other players in the area, including COLAB, Caldwell’s radio show, and the handful of regular campaign PR firms in the area. But CCN is particularly myopic concerning coverage of the local dysfunctional liberal political machine.

Two thumbs down.

What watchdog? If existing laws were actually enforced, every public official in SLO County would be in jail.

This is an interesting little story, and now I have a question for Tom.

On his facebookie page, in response to this story, he writes, “I am not paid by anyone to do SLOSense and never have been.”

However, at this link:


… it shows that “(Jim) Patterson for Supervisor” paid “Tom Fulks Campaign Strategy,” “$4,000.”

Soooo… you know… WTF?

Is Tom saying that “Tom Fulks Campaign Strategy” is completely separate from Tom Fulks’ SLOSense?

i mean, obviously politicians are paying him for his “campaign strategy,” so, how is he “not (being) paid by anyone to do SLOSense.”

That doesn’t seem to add up.

[Incidentally, judging by the results of the Patterson/Arnold race, it doesn’t sound like Patterson got his money’s worth.

“Tom Fulks Campaign Strategy,” you’re SO fired.]

Let me walk you through this. The Facebook link shows Slosense was launched in 2013. The New Times link shows the filing was made in March 2012. So, does that answer your question?

Homer asks:

“So, does that answer your question?

Yes, it sure does, and thank you for asking.

The answer? Tom Fulks — Bruce Gibson’s “evil genius in the back room” — is, obviously, a liar.

He takes thousands of dollars from politicians to, uh… “help” them with their “campaign strategies,” and then he runs around writing thing like this: “I am not paid by anyone to do SLOSense…”

So many questions:

Will Fulks, again, be Gibson’s “evil genius in the back room” during Gibson’s upcoming reelection campaign?

And, if so, will Gibson’s campaign ALSO pay him thousands of dollars for “campaign strategy.”

And, if so, is he going to just keep lying about that critical fact, and pretend that SLOSense is simply, “Providing an online, reality-based, political information platform for San Luis Obispo County?”

Of course, now I also have to wonder who’s on the SLOSense Blog Commentor payroll, where Fulks’ little helpers run around on every blog they can find — blogs that include content that is critical of his “clients” — and then destroy the messengers of that content through deliberate character assassination, because, apparently, that’s what Fulks’ little helpers are paid to do.

This is a VERY interesting, and important, local story, CCN. It explains so much. Thank you for publishing it.

So this rule acknowledges that liars, con-men, propaganda and literary sculptors are out of control. They need to be controlled, we need to find them, sit them down under a bright light and ask them to raise their right hand to solemnly swear.

How about passing a BS tax to fund this process? Governing has become that stupid.

How about these message-board lobbyists be required to the same kind of accountability as the rest of the lobbyists who impact the public political zeigast.

They are lobbyists who have been able to act in the dark, without accountability. That needs to change if we are to have any hope of a truly transparent government.


Guess we didn’t really stay on top of THAT one. Think they attached it to the NDAA 2013 (you remember the NDAA, last year they tacked on that whole “detain w/o a warrant” thing…)

Paragraph 18:


Sec. 501. (a) The Secretary and the Broadcasting Board of Governors are authorized to use funds appropriated or otherwise made available for public diplomacy information programs to provide for the preparation, dissemination, and use of information intended for foreign audiences abroad about the United States, its people, and its policies, through press, publications, radio, motion pictures, the Internet, and other information media, including social media, and through information centers, instructors, and other direct or indirect means of communication.

This WAS passed and will be signed into law. Still hope for change?

What in the world are you talking about? And how is it connected to holding paid posters accountable, just like other lobbyists are held accountable?

Nobody is talking about “controlling” them. The issue is holding them to the same rules that other lobbyists have to follow?

It is about transparency in government, especially election politics.