Free speech issue in California: Political watchdog agency backs off controversial idea…for now
With free speech arguments and the potential to harm political discourse, the director of the Fair Political Practices Commission, California’s political watchdog agency, has apparently backed off an earlier proposal to require writers of online media content to report financing from campaigns.
The news comes from a recent Sacramento Bee report. Regarding the earlier proposal, she did concede that while candidates are already required to disclose payments to bloggers, as a campaign expenditure, the idea would have created a brand new category of mandatory disclosure from bloggers themselves.
FPPC Chairwoman Ann Ravel, appointed by Gov. Jerry Brown last year, according to the Sacramento Press Club, used to serve as Santa Clara County Counsel from 1998 to 2009 before working in the Civil Division of the U.S. Department of Justice. She is scheduled to be a guest speaker at the Sacramento Press Club and will address the upcoming election as well as changes made at the political ethics commission.
Plenty of opposition came from people who believed that the impact of such a requirement would have a “chilling effect” on free speech or political discourse.
But Ravel has apparently not given up on the matter, telling media that she is merely tabling the idea. “I think it may well be that after a lot of public input and discussion, it’s still something that could occur.”
The controversial proposal has been discussed among the FPPC board, and at least one other FPPC commissioner, Ron Rotunda, believes the mandatory disclosure “raises a free speech issue.” Rotunda also noted that an FPPC subcommittee, in years past, had considered the idea, but opted not to pursue it.
The proposal is believed by state election officials to be the first of its kind in the nation, according to Politico.