California to Require Campaigns to Reveal Paid Bloggers

California election officials will soon wade into the murky world of online journalism by requiring campaigns to reveal whether they are paying bloggers.

Campaigns and Elections says the California Fair Political Practices Commission approved new regulations to help the public decide who is being paid to “provide Internet content for campaigns.” The regulations will require campaigns to report paying people to produce favorable or unfavorable content about a candidate or opponent, unless the content has a disclosure identifying who paid for the content.

They defined content as anything offered on a website or other digital platform in writing, picture, video, photograph or other similar format.

“The purpose of the regulation is to provide meaningful disclosure and prevent obfuscation of who is funding communications on the Internet, which is fast becoming a primary source of information,” FPPC attorneys Zackery Morazzini and Heather Rowan wrote in a memo.

The issue of bloggers on the payroll came to the commission’s attention after an incident in the 2010 GOP gubernatorial primary campaign. That’s when it was uncovered that consultant Steve Frank’s Eagle Group, who was employed by Steve Poizner, paid a blogger who went by the name Sgt. York to post criticism of Meg Whiman on the now-defunct Red County Blog. After being revealed as a campaign-paid writer, the blogger was subsequently ejected from the site.