Politicians must now divulge payments to bloggers
September 21, 2013
By KAREN VELIE and DANIEL BLACKBURN
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:
“PUBLICIST/PUBLIC RELATIONS/SLANDER-GUARD (San Luis Obispo)”
“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.”