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Escondido's hidden gems of influence

Paul McNamara seeks advice regarding unnamed YouTube video givers

The channel features a video of McNamara promoting the Escondido World Marketplace.
The channel features a video of McNamara promoting the Escondido World Marketplace.

Huell Howser, the folksy host of public television's California's Gold, who died in 2014, may be spinning in his grave, but a top North County politico wants to emulate him on YouTube, courtesy of a group of unnamed donors.

Huell Howser may be spinning in his grave.

"You are the Mayor of the City of Escondido, and you would like to open a YouTube channel where approximately twice a month you post a video of yourself walking around and talking about an area of interest in the city," says a June 21 letter to Democrat Paul McNamara from state Fair Political Practices Commission lawyer Katelyn Greene.

"The videos appearing on your YouTube channel would be roughly modeled after the popular Public Broadcasting Service show California's Gold, but the videos will likely only be 5-15 minutes in length.

"The working title of the YouTube channel is Discovering the Hidden Gems of Escondido, which plays off the Spanish meaning of Escondido, which is ‘hidden.’"

McNamara beat two-term GOP mayor Sam Abed's 2018 reelection effort.

The channel, already up on YouTube, currently features a polished video of McNamara promoting the Escondido World Marketplace, posted June 30.

McNamara, who beat two-term GOP mayor Sam Abed's 2018 reelection effort, vowed that the channel, which currently has eight subscribers, will have no political content, according to the correspondence.

"The idea of the YouTube channel is to promote the positive aspects of the city," says Greene's letter. "You would reference the videos on your personal and your campaign 'Mac for Escondido' Facebook accounts."

"However, the videos will not contain express advocacy or refer to your campaign or election, other than to your title as an elected representative. The videos also will not solicit any contributions for your candidacy and would only showcase different positive aspects of the city."

"The intent of creating the videos is not to have a re-election campaign tool, but rather to promote the city using social media and at the same time not use re-election monies to promote the city, as the city does not have the resources to support this project."

So, who picks up the tab?

"You found a videographer who would do these videos (approx. 32 videos) for a flat fee of $3000, which was a negotiated price, but which you understand to be similar to other rates you have received from other videographers for other unrelated matters,” the letter says.

Enter a group of unnamed mayoral "friends" whose financial support of the online venture would not represent a reportable campaign contribution under state law, according to the letter.

"You have provided that you will request that your friends make payments directly to the videographer for production of the videos for your YouTube channel. Thus, the payments will be made at your behest."

"However, you also provided that the videos will not expressly advocate any campaign activity or make reference to your candidacy, other than to your title as an elected representative, and will not solicit any contributions for your candidacy."

"Therefore, the payments for the video production made by your friends at your behest are payments for a communication that is exempted as a contribution," says Greene’s missive. "Based upon the facts provided, the payments do not constitute a contribution to you."

On the other hand, cash from friends may or may not represent a personal gift to McNamara under state law. If so, he might be required to disclose amounts and donor identities officially and possibly recuse himself from city matters involving the givers.

"No facts were provided indicating the nature of your relationship with your friends that you intend to ask to make payments," says the letter.

“A public official who receives gift(s) of $520 or more may have a financial conflict of interest under the Act.”

"The official must disqualify himself or herself from voting or otherwise participating in a governmental decision affecting that source, if the payment was received or promised to the official within 12 months preceding the decision.

"Therefore, if you accept gifts from your friends valued at $520 or more, you may be prohibited from participating in governmental decisions affecting those sources."

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The channel features a video of McNamara promoting the Escondido World Marketplace.
The channel features a video of McNamara promoting the Escondido World Marketplace.

Huell Howser, the folksy host of public television's California's Gold, who died in 2014, may be spinning in his grave, but a top North County politico wants to emulate him on YouTube, courtesy of a group of unnamed donors.

Huell Howser may be spinning in his grave.

"You are the Mayor of the City of Escondido, and you would like to open a YouTube channel where approximately twice a month you post a video of yourself walking around and talking about an area of interest in the city," says a June 21 letter to Democrat Paul McNamara from state Fair Political Practices Commission lawyer Katelyn Greene.

"The videos appearing on your YouTube channel would be roughly modeled after the popular Public Broadcasting Service show California's Gold, but the videos will likely only be 5-15 minutes in length.

"The working title of the YouTube channel is Discovering the Hidden Gems of Escondido, which plays off the Spanish meaning of Escondido, which is ‘hidden.’"

McNamara beat two-term GOP mayor Sam Abed's 2018 reelection effort.

The channel, already up on YouTube, currently features a polished video of McNamara promoting the Escondido World Marketplace, posted June 30.

McNamara, who beat two-term GOP mayor Sam Abed's 2018 reelection effort, vowed that the channel, which currently has eight subscribers, will have no political content, according to the correspondence.

"The idea of the YouTube channel is to promote the positive aspects of the city," says Greene's letter. "You would reference the videos on your personal and your campaign 'Mac for Escondido' Facebook accounts."

"However, the videos will not contain express advocacy or refer to your campaign or election, other than to your title as an elected representative. The videos also will not solicit any contributions for your candidacy and would only showcase different positive aspects of the city."

"The intent of creating the videos is not to have a re-election campaign tool, but rather to promote the city using social media and at the same time not use re-election monies to promote the city, as the city does not have the resources to support this project."

So, who picks up the tab?

"You found a videographer who would do these videos (approx. 32 videos) for a flat fee of $3000, which was a negotiated price, but which you understand to be similar to other rates you have received from other videographers for other unrelated matters,” the letter says.

Enter a group of unnamed mayoral "friends" whose financial support of the online venture would not represent a reportable campaign contribution under state law, according to the letter.

"You have provided that you will request that your friends make payments directly to the videographer for production of the videos for your YouTube channel. Thus, the payments will be made at your behest."

"However, you also provided that the videos will not expressly advocate any campaign activity or make reference to your candidacy, other than to your title as an elected representative, and will not solicit any contributions for your candidacy."

"Therefore, the payments for the video production made by your friends at your behest are payments for a communication that is exempted as a contribution," says Greene’s missive. "Based upon the facts provided, the payments do not constitute a contribution to you."

On the other hand, cash from friends may or may not represent a personal gift to McNamara under state law. If so, he might be required to disclose amounts and donor identities officially and possibly recuse himself from city matters involving the givers.

"No facts were provided indicating the nature of your relationship with your friends that you intend to ask to make payments," says the letter.

“A public official who receives gift(s) of $520 or more may have a financial conflict of interest under the Act.”

"The official must disqualify himself or herself from voting or otherwise participating in a governmental decision affecting that source, if the payment was received or promised to the official within 12 months preceding the decision.

"Therefore, if you accept gifts from your friends valued at $520 or more, you may be prohibited from participating in governmental decisions affecting those sources."

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