State OKs fines in Turlock robocall case

A state agency Thursday approved $32,500 in fines for former Turlock City Councilman Kurt Vander Weide and his campaign consultant for their roles in four robocalls placed during the 2008 campaign and other violations.

The Fair Political Practices Commission voted 4-0 for the fines at its meeting in Sacramento, spokesman Jay Wierenga said. Vander Weide and consultant Carl Fogliani were accused of failing to disclose the source of the automated calls, some of them targeting then-incumbent Mary Jackson.

The commission also voted 4-0 for a $4,000 fine for current Councilwoman Amy Bublak and her husband and campaign manager, Milton Richards, for failing to report payments for some of Fogliani’s services in the same election. The couple agreed to the fine in a settlement that stipulates Bublak did not help plan the calls.

The fines were unchanged from the amounts proposed by the commission staff last week.

It said the calls were designed to benefit Vander Weide and Bublak. Jackson and Bublak eventually won, and Vander Weide lost his seat by a narrow margin.

The calls were made in October and early November 2008, according to an FPPC staff report, and went to 5,593 to 17,096 phone numbers in Turlock each time.

The call with the largest reach was from a woman who falsely claimed to be Jackson and urged voters to reject Proposition 8, a statewide measure against same-sex marriage on the same ballot, the report said. “Turlock must support a rich, vibrant community that includes everyone and regardless of whom they choose to love,” a transcript said. “If you agree, I urge you to vote Mary Jackson for Turlock City Council.”

The report said the people behind the calls “would not want to be identified as the source of the robocall campaign, which helps explain the failure to comply with … identification requirements for making the robocalls.”

Vander Weide did not ask for a hearing on the accusations, according to the report. He did not respond to The Modesto Bee’s request for comment Thursday.

The $32,500 includes $20,000 to be paid by Vander Weide, his campaign committee and Fogliani for not identifying robocall sources. The other $12,500 is for Vander Weide and his committee for campaign finance record-keeping violations.