By Anne Lowe
PUBLIC INFORMATION The Fair Political Practices Commission has begun posting complaints online against political candidates that have triggered pending investigations, in an effort to reduce unlawful behavior during campaigns.
The commission will post daily updates on its website that will include the names of the politicians and campaign committees who are currently being investigated; the original complaint that led to the investigation; and copies of the letters sent to the parties involved.
Prior to these daily updates, the commission released such information only upon request under the California Public Records Act. The commission is also hoping to speed up its investigations process so decisions can be made while political campaigns are still in progress, rather than months or years after elections are over.
Commission Chairman Dan Schnur said in a news release that he hopes the new process will encourage politicians to be more cautious during their campaigns. He also said the commission has taken steps to ensure competing campaigns will not be able to use the new system against their rivals.
"Political consultants in both parties too often engage in borderline behavior under the assumption that being fined in the months after the election is the worst thing that can happen to their candidate. Well, thats not the worst thing that can happen. Before you step too close to the line, ask your candidate if he or she would like their name in a headline along with the words FPPC and investigation in the weeks before an election.
??In order to discourage campaigns filing frivolous charges against their opponents in attempts to attract media coverage, Schnur promised to publicly castigate those campaigns that filed complaints under penalty of perjury that the Commissions Enforcement Division determined were without merit. In particularly egregious cases, the matter would be referred to the District Attorney for possible criminal charges.??
I understand the temptation this new approach provides to campaigns to file complaints without any evidence whatsoever against their opponent in order to attract a quick headline, said Schnur. But they should understand that I will go to the district in question and announce that the candidate who has filed these baseless charges has wasted thousands of dollars of taxpayers money in order to avoid a public discussion of the issues that matter to the voters.??