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Commission upholds Vander Weides fines for robocalls
Bublak fined for reporting errors
Vander Weide
Kurt Vander Weide

Former Turlock City Councilman Kurt Vander Weide and current councilwoman Amy Bublak will have to pay the fines imposed on them by a state political watchdog agency for violations that in Vander Weide’s case included the infamous 2008 robocalls.

The California Fair Political Practices Commission upheld a $32,500 fine for Vander Weide and his campaign consultant Carl Fogliani by a 4-0 vote at their Thursday meeting.

The FPPC stated Vander Weide and Fogliani, along with Vander Weide’s campaign committee Friends of Kurt Vander Weide, paid for four robocalls during the 2008 city council campaign. Three of the four calls falsely purported to be paid for by someone else, and the remaining robocall did not identify who paid for it, in violation of campaign governing laws.

During October 2008, thousands of Turlock residents began receiving a variety of robocalls. The first, claiming Jackson was a special interest candidate, was falsely said to be paid for by the Orange County-based “Taxpayers for Safer Neighborhoods.”

Two other automated phone calls — one referring to Bublak and Vander Weide in a positive manner, and the other painting Jackson negatively — were also found to be falsely purported as being paid for by the fictitious organization.

In November 2008, just days before the election, another recorded political message was broadcast featuring a woman who falsely claimed to be Jackson. The impersonating woman promoted a position against Prop 8, the measure banning same-sex marriage in California, saying, “Turlock must support a rich, vibrant community that includes everyone and regardless of whom they choose to love. If you agree, I urge you to vote Mary Jackson for Turlock City Council.” The calls were falsely said to be paid for by the Friends of Mary Jackson committee.

Vander Weide and his campaign committee were also found to have failed to maintain required committee records; falsely reported or failed to report payment for the above-described robocalls on a campaign statement for the period ending Oct. 18, 2008; failed to report payments to subvendors on campaign statements for the periods ending Sept. 30, Oct. 18, and/or Dec. 31, 2008; and failed to notify a major donor of the need to file campaign statements.

Vander Weide did not file a notice of defense against the accusations.

At the same Thursday meeting, the FPPC voted 4-0 to fine Bublak and her husband and campaign committee treasurer Milton Richards $4,000 for two violations of the Political Reform Act. The two violations Bublak is being penalized for are failure to report payment to campaign consultant Fogliani in the amount of $1,000 and failure to report campaign expenditures made to subvendors through Fogliani. The subvendor expenditures were for yard signs and campaign mailers and totaled over $23,000.

Bublak and Richards filed a stipulation with the FPPC that acknowledges their reporting failure and agrees to accept the fine, but disavows any responsibility for the robocalls. According to the Fair Political Practices Commission's Decision and Order on the robocalls investigation, Bublak maintains that she instructed her campaign consultant, Fogliani, not to do robocalls.  The Commission also found evidence to suggest that Fogliani may not have invoiced Bublak for the robocalls—even though he claims, through his former attorney, that her committee paid for half of the cost of them.

"I waited six years quiet and patient and it finally comes to light that I had clerical issues, nothing illegal. I've always said that I had nothing to do with it," said Bublak in a previous interview. "The person that I've been painted to be in the media for the past six years is not who I am. These are clerical issues.

"The people who know me and work with me on a regular basis know who I am. I am a straight forward person, black and white...I finally get to tell the world that I didn't do it."