The leader of California's equivalent to Washington's Public Disclosure Commission (PDC) is pushing new regulations that would require bloggers to disclose payments from political campaigns. "The public should know about such a connection in the political arena so they can properly evaluate endorsements," FPPC chair Ann Ravel said.
Yeah. I guess. But why single out political bloggers for a regulation that will surely be used to harass them? And when are folks going to stop insisting that there is this clear and definable distinction between so-called "bloggers" and so-called "journalists"?
I mean, let's say I did some contract work for a candidate or initiative campaign I was covering, and failed to disclose it on Slog. It would be unethical, sure, but under California's proposed new regulations it wouldn't be illegal, because as an employee of a Pulitzer Prize winning news organization, I'm technically a journalist not a blogger. Now let's say I went back to writing at my old blog HorseAss.org, and failed to disclose the payment there. Oops... I just broke the law!
Same writer, same content, different consequences.
The same holds true of Washington's reporter shield law, which specifically excludes bloggers from its protections (thank you, Rob McKenna). If I were to write a post for HA, a court could compel me to reveal my sources. But post that same piece to Slog and my source and I are magically protected, thanks to Tim's signature on my paycheck. Where's the logic in that?
But apart from the second-class citizenship afforded bloggers by laws such as these, what really bothers me about the proposed California regulation is the way it will surely be used to harass bloggers. Had HA been subject to PDC oversight I would have repeatedly been the subject of complaints and investigations seeking to subpoena my financial records and catch me in technical missteps. Receive a donation from an individual who later runs for an office in a race I tangentially mention without full disclosure? PDC complaint. Have a Google ad show up for a candidate (an ad I didn't solicit or even see) and then fail to disclose the half-cent payment in a later post on his race? PDC complaint.
You don't think the partisan assholes at the Freedom Foundation or BIAW or any number of other right wing operatives wouldn't pee themselves with joy at the opportunity to target lefty bloggers with complaint after complaint? That's how this game played... that is, if you have the resources to play it.
Ironically, subjecting partisan bloggers like me to such regulations in the name of transparency wouldn't make us any more transparent. I mean, how could it? I already wear my bias on my sleeve, and trust my audience to read me in that context. I'm an open book. And in a way, that makes what I always did as a "blogger" a lot more honest and transparent than what a lot of "journalists" do in insisting they are fair, balanced, and neutral.