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Ethics czar angers bloggers with proposal to shine light on campaign pay

September 14, 2012 |  9:05 am

6a00d8341c630a53ef01761727476a970c-500wiThe state’s ethics agency has formally proposed that campaigns  be required to disclose when they pay bloggers, tweeters and other online pundits to write favorable posts about them.

As expected, the idea is being thoroughly trashed on the blogosphere, with one prominent Internet commentator arguing it violates free-speech rights and is unenforceable.

The state Fair Political Practices Commission has given notice that it will consider the proposed regulation at a public hearing on Oct. 18. The proposal would require campaigns to report payments made to bloggers, tweeters and others to promote their candidacy in the Internet, including the Web location where the paid advocacy occurs.

"The people have the right and the desire to know if the opinions they are absorbing generate from a payment and from whom,'' the FPPC notice says.

Democratic activist Steve Maviglio blogged on the California Majority Report website that the proposal by Commission Chairwoman Ann Ravel infringes on free speech.

"Unworkable? You bet. Enforceable? Not a chance," Maviglio wrote. "Can't you just see the FPPC trying to monitor thousands of Facebook pages, blogs, and websites to see what anyone working on a campaign is posting -- and where?"

Ravel said the proposal is workable, and fits in with the panel’s emphasis on more transparency in campaigns by shedding light on when they are "purchasing opinion" on the Internet. "We certainly have authority over candidates and their expenditures."

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-- Patrick McGreevy in Sacramento

Photo: Ann Ravel, chairwoman of the state Fair Political Practices Commission, says the public has a right to know when campaigns pay bloggers. Credit: Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press

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