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Robocalls could prove costly for former council member, campaign consultant
Vander Weide
Turlock City Council member Kurt Vander Weide could have to pay $32,500 in penalties for the illegal robocalls made in 2008. - photo by Journal file photo

After six years of vague accusations and finger pointing, those responsible for the 2008 illegal robocalls targeting then-Turlock City Council candidate Mary Jackson will have to face financial consequences.

Former Turlock City Council member Kurt Vander Weide could have to pay $32,500 in penalties for the illegal robocalls sent to thousands of local residents during the 2008 election season.

The total amount includes penalties for eight different violations of the Political Reform Act. Vander Weide's campaign manager, Carl Fogliani, could also be ordered to pay $20,000 for organizing the illegal robocall campaign.

Turlock City Council member Amy Bublak and her campaign treasurer and husband Milton Richards face $4,000 in penalties 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 is not being penalized 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. "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."

Vander Weide could not be reached for comment.

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.

The FPPC believes campaign consultant Fogliani aided and abetted in the carrying out of the deception by planning, organizing and directing the making of the calls for both Bublak and Vander Weide’s benefit. According to the FPPC, the deception violates the Political Reform Act, as campaign committees are prohibited from contracting with phone bank vendors who fail to disclose the identification of those who paid for them.

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.

The Fair Political Practices Commission will consider the penalties at its July 17 meeting.