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Wondering who's behind the latest campaign smear video gone viral or candidate-touting tweet?

The Fair Political Practices Commission announced today the creation of a subcommittee to explore whether the Political Reform Act should be updated to include regulation of electronic communications used by political campaigns.

While the PRA mandates that tried-and-true campaign materials (think television spots and direct mail) disclose the source and funding for the piece, the surge of Tweets, YouTube videos and Web sites driving campaign messages go largely unregulated. The main reason for the discrepancy: the Internet, let alone viral videos and hashtag campaigns, just wasn't in the political communications picture back when the act was established in 1974.

"Political campaigning has changed a great deal since the creation of the Political Reform Act," FPPC Chairman Ross Johnson said in a statement. "We created this subcommittee to help the Commission determine if we should be doing more to help inform the public of who is paying to send out political messages."

The subcommittee, led by Commissioners Elizabeth Garrett and Timothy A. Hodson, is being launched as part of the Bipartisan California Commission on Internet Political Practices, which was created in 2000 to evaluate the expanding role of electronic communication in campaigns and, when deemed necessary and within its statutory authority, submit recommendations for legislative changes.

It plans to hold at least two informational hearings on the issue, according to the release.

Prolific political tweeters shouldn't worry about squeezing a "paid4by" into every 140-character blast, though. The commission notes in a press release that any new regulations adopted would only affect parties or individuals who are already subject to FPPC regulation and required to submit financial disclosures to the agency.

Update 6:03 p.m.: California Republican Party Chairman Ron Nehring issued a statement saying he is "skeptical of any attempt by government to start regulating online content in the name of campaign finance."

"An attempt by government to impose restrictions on Facebook pages, tweets, websites hosted on servers elsewhere on the globe, and the like promises to be an exercise in futility," he said in the statement. "Government will never be able to keep up with changes in online communications, and its attempt to do so will only have a chilling effect on political discourse."


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