Politicians must now divulge payments to bloggers

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

Illustration accompanying
Craigslist ad for PR ‘blogger’

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.”

 

 

 


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WiserGuy

What this new law also does–and I don’t particularly like this–is increase the potential for sites like CalCoastNews, The Tribune and other other forums, to be served by courts to disclose information as to ferret out the identities of people who blog.


r0y

This we agree on.


The government does not need to know more about us and what we’re doing, we need to know more about THEM and what THEY are doing.


I do not need to make my life transparent for government, government needs to be made transparent for me.


Didn’t Nancy Pelosi promise this? Wasn’t she and her fellow democrats going to “drain the swamp” that Bush and his cronies had? Maybe those were the water levels Obama was talking about when he said that his election would raise them…


MaryMalone

The focus is on politicians, PACs, and other “Citizens for Blah-Blah” organizations to report the actions of ALL of their agents who are paid to post the employing organization’s advertisement.


These paid posters are just low-rent lobbyists…but lobbyists they are, and the paid posters need to go on record just the same as other lobbyists do.


I am finding it interesting to see the amount of push-back on this on political message boards. It makes me wonder how many paid posting lobbyists there are actively plying their trade.


Make no mistake about it…message boards influence public opinion. Even those who don’t participate in message-board postings are exposed to the paid-posters’ message from those who do participate on message boards.


WiserGuy

I theorize that on the Central Coast, two people who will be fretting about this the most are Mike Brown and Andy Caldwell of COLAB. Now they will no longer legally be allowed to blog under pseudonyms for political interests they are being paid by, unless it is disclosed to the pub lic as to what they are doing.


In SLO County that is where I see this new law having its biggest impact.


R.Hodin

It would be a much simpler matter just to require them to blog under the pseudonyms


“Tweedle Dee”

and

“Tweedle Dum”


rogerfreberg

Tom Folks?


There’s a name from the past… doesn’t he do work for Adam Hill?


Paying bloggers to fight for you on message boards and write about you shows how little support is really there for anyone.


WiserGuy

How does it do THAT? You could say the same thing about political advertisements, but that wouldn’t make sense either. You’re over-reaching.


rogerfreberg

Bloggers are followed for their insights on a particular issue or expertise… normally whatever compensation they receive is usually fairly obvious. Looking around you might see widgets for products or certain ads.


A blogger who is bought by ‘big Pharm’ or some sleezy political entity is compromised. Their opinion must be taken in the context that they are being paid to promote. This is very different from political advertisements where at least a disclaimer is apparent. Now we’ll get to see who’s behind the story.


Posters who are paid to ‘work’ on other sites should be likewise identified.


MaryMalone

Seriously? You don’t know how having to pay people to write good things about you indicates there is a shortage of people who would say good things about you on their own?


The ho-bloggers are pretending to be posting as John Q. Public, without a paid agenda.


If a politician has to use such subterfuge to get out a positive message, then the politician might re-think his actions and behaviors which have led to there being a dearth of members of the public who have a positive viewpoint of the politician.


They are pretending not to be paid advertisements when, in fact, they are paid advertisements.


Political commercials have to run a statement in the ads that inform the public who paid for the message. Paid ho-bloggers are doing the same thing as do advertisements. There is no reason why there should not have to be a “This message was paid for by the Citizens to Re-Elect Doofus for County Supervisor Committee.”


WiserGuy

First of all, I like this rule. But, you are over-reaching in your conclusions. If politician A pays bloggers to blog, that alone is no evidence that Politician A is less popular than politician B. You need to apply common sense here and not draw huge, erroneous conclusions or assumptions based on irrational thinking.


MaryMalone

Strawman argument.


Who said anything about a “politician B”? I didn’t. You end up arguing with yourself on this one.


WiserGuy

I think you are confused, Mary. When a politician pays for promotion/advertising, it does NOT logically follow that that particular politician is “not popular.” All you can rationally conclude is that politician wants to be more popular or retain popularity.


One thing is certain: both “popular” and “unpopular” politicians pay for promotion with the intent of growing or retaining popularity.


There is a tendency for people to draw erroneous conclusions or make wild assumptions based upon an illogical analysis of facts. That is what I mean by “over-reaching.” I see it frequenty here and on other forums.


MaryMalone

I didn’t say anything about being “popular.”


The phrase I used was “…dearth of members of the public who have a positive viewpoint of the politician.”


Justin Bieber is popular. That doesn’t necessarily mean people would vote for him or that he would make a good political office holder.


The politician using such tactics as using paid posting agents to positively impact the politician’s appearance to the public would not be doing it if he/she was already assured of voters’ support.


There is always a risk of using paid political agents, especially ones who are being paid on the sly, because it could really impact negatively on the candidate doing the paying if it were to become public knowledge.


WiserGuy

You could say the exact same thing about any form of political advertising or paid promotion. I will reiterate: Using paid bloggers proves nothing about the support of or dearth of support of a particular candidate. Even sure winners of an election generally spend some money on advertising and promotion. It’s necessarily because they don’t have enough supporters to win an election. But even a successful politician doesn’t want to lose group, especially if being attacked unfairly on the internet.


Homer

I think the actual amount of support a politician has is best measured by who gets elected.


Word

Right because, secret mailers and fake phone calls, ugly email chains, PAC’s, whisper campaigns and internet trolling have nothing to do with who wins.


It doesn’t matter because: “support a politician has is best measured by who gets elected”


Spoken just like a PR marketer who has a horse in the race june 2014.


WiserGuy

Homer is correct. Elections are still the best measure. As to how that support to get elected came about, that is another story.


And if you don’t believe elections are the best measure, what do you suggest as an alternative?


Word

It’s not another story, it is the same story: who has the most money and the best PR wins.


The best alternative is less anonymous/corporate money in politics. With citizen united a pac can send money through other pacs and pay that local blogger without leaving a trace. No one would know.


With that dig i take it you are warming up for a spring campaign of anonymous comments supporting your horses, in this race?


MaryMalone

In this day and age, no one is that naive.


The only change will be those people who are posting a certain message and paid for it be identified as such. It is no different than PACs and other similar groups must identify their lobbyists.


I, personally, wish the regulations went further and these paid political posters had to register with the state. Paid posters are lobbyists. There is no difference.


In fact, some lobbyists may actually be doing social media posting and blogging.


Each post made by a paid poster needs to carry in it the same kind of message political advertisements require: “This message was paid for by the “Citizens for the Rights of Bed-Bugs in Homeless Shelters” (or whatever) at the top of the post.


We keep saying we want transparency in our election process. This is what the new rules will provide.


MaryMalone

Yowzer. ITA.


Homer

Ok, so besides elections, your way to decide who has the most support is…? Hmmm, sounds rather authoritarian.


r0y

What’s worse than politics? Marketing and PR.


At least with a politician you know they’re lying to you because the mouth is moving…


Marketing and PR is much more sinister.


MaryMalone

That requirement should clear out the Topix boards pretty quickly.


Word

Unlikely as some of the local trolls push their team’s view for free, they just need a few emails to get them going.


Sort of a San Luis Obispo Cyber Vigilance Committee trying to hang offenders from the internet trees. to defend their lack of honor.


SLOBIRD

Gosh, I thought that position was already filled and they were blogging on this site. Very interesting!


cliffclaven

Nationwide (likely worldwide judging by the crap on BBC) this scheme is proliferating. As more of us come to rely upon web based ‘news sources’ vs. the joke of print and ‘network news’, we face the limitless funding of the one-percent. Their many mercenary minions of missing integrity (no synonym that rhymed) flood the various ‘comments’ sites with pro-wing nut propaganda. More of that looming idiocracy awaits us. Stock up on red wine.


zaphod

pro tobacco, big tobacco is ‘behind the curtain’ globally


zaphod
bobfromsanluis

No real surprise there, just nice to see actual evidence though.


zaphod

The organization of moneyfolk that retain the right to addict kids to tobacco around the world is the money behind the TEA PARTY USA !!!

what a bunch of MISINFORMED chumps, LUTZ no new texas LOL


Maxfusion

Chumps indeed, particularly when you make statements like this “The organization of moneyfolk that retain the right to addict kids to tobacco around the world is the money behind the TEA PARTY USA !!!” and you claim this as your benchmark/ From the link you provided:


“There has been continuity of some key players, strategies and messages from these groups to Tea Party organisations. As of 2012, the Tea Party was beginning to spread internationally” Some key players? What key players? What percentage of total funds is from these “key players? Please elaborate.


Grasp at straws much? By the way, what the hell is a ‘moneyfolk’.


zaphod

moneyfolk AKA the 1%


more :

http//momocrats.com/2013/09/12/revealed-secret-koch-org-spent-millions-anti-choice-anti-obamacare-groups/

Folks should also know about tobacco money going into the Tea Party Express


mbactivist1

Well, well, well. This sure explains a lot.


bobfromsanluis

So, did Adam Hill step up and fill this role himself?