California Agency Considers Proposed Disclosure Rules for Payments to Bloggers

The California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) Dec. 13 is set to consider a proposed regulation that would require campaigns to disclose payments to bloggers and those who post campaign content on sites like Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.

Proponents of the regulation have said it will provide needed transparency for the public about campaign-sponsored opinions online.

Under the current draft regulations, Cal. Code Regs. tit. 2 § 18421.5 would require that campaigns report as independent expenditures payments to individuals who create or post campaign content to a blog or social media site, or who create video content to be posted online. Committees would be required to disclose payment information with "as much specificity as possible."

Some bloggers who have criticized the proposed regulation as overbroad say it would require committees to disclose, for example, even when those affiliated with campaigns post advocacy messages in their personal time. The commission is still refining the language of the proposal to improve disclosure without overreaching, FPPC counsel Heather M. Rowan said at a Nov. 14 meeting.

FPPC chair Ann Ravel first expressed support for blogger disclosure rules in April. An initial proposal would have required bloggers and other content producers to make disclosures about payments on their sites.

After backlash from some California bloggers and speech advocacy groups, the regulation was drafted to put the onus on campaign committees to make the disclosures. The proposed rule would merely require a public accounting from committees and would not require bloggers or social media users to post notices. Disclosure requirements in California are triggered when a campaign committee spends $100 or more.