Dan Schnur took the gavel as chairman Fair Political Practices Commission today, saying at his first meeting that the agency will "rain hell down on" anyone who blatantly breaks the state's campaign laws.
But Schnur, repeating a pledge to "make you famous" if you violate the law, said first he wants to make sure the rules themselves are clear.
"The first necessary step before you get to enforcement is education and more specifically clarification to make sure that people who want to do the right thing understand how to do the right thing," he said. "It is my judgment that if we expand every possible effort to clarify those rules that, in my mind, eliminates any excuse for inadvertent violation of those rules."
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger announced June 1 that Schnur, a veteran GOP strategist and director of the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics at the University of Southern California, was his pick to replace former Chairman Ross Johnson, who resigned in April because of health issues.
Schnur's appointment spans the remainder of Johnson's term, which ends in January 2011. He said today that he does not plan to seek appointment to a full term from the next governor.
"I've already made it very clear that regardless of whether Jerry Brown or Meg Whitman is elected in November, I am going back to USC in January," he said.
He said he hopes to spend the next seven months looking at ways in which both the campaign laws and the commission "may not address the challenges of the 21st Century," including how complicated financial investments should be disclosed and reported and using new technology to aid the commission's work.
Schnur said in his opening remarks that his past political affiliations wouldn't color his actions as chair. "I tell my students the first day of the semester I want you to leave your political ideology at the door and I will do the same," Schnur said. "The same philosophy is true here."
But the USC political science professor jokingly revealed where his true loyalties lie when he noted that he was sworn-in by state Treasurer Bill Lockyer, a Democrat.
He said he chose Lockyer "one, because he's a friend, second, because I believe it sends a strong message of nonpartisanship in this post... third and most importantly, because the treasurer is an adjunct professor in the department of political science at USC."