Former newsman John Keplinger led California’s political watchdog agency

Growing up listening to newsman Edward R. Murrow, John Keplinger was inspired to become a journalist, and the election of President John F. Kennedy instilled in him a passion for politics, said his son.

Keplinger, a former newspaper reporter, political campaign consultant and chief of the California secretary of state’s political reform unit, died Dec. 17 in Sacramento of complications from bladder cancer, family members said. He was 80 years old.

As a reporter for the Palo Alto Times, he was trusted by sources, and as a government employee, he was able to work well with people of all political persuasions, said George Skelton, a longtime friend and political columnist with the Los Angeles Times.

Skelton said he was a journalism student at what was then San Jose State College when he was introduced to Keplinger, a recent San Jose State graduate who had landed a reporting job with the Palo Alto Times covering local government. When Skelton was hired by a Sunnyvale newspaper to cover the same beat, Keplinger took him under his wing.

“He was working for a competing paper, but he showed me around and introduced me to people I needed to know,” Skelton said. “He took the time to show me the ropes. I thought that was very unusual.”

For several years, their careers paralleled each other.

“We both covered the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago,” recalled Skelton, who was working for the Sacramento Union at the time.

Both men were on the streets of Chicago as thousands of Vietnam War protesters battled with…

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