City lobbyists now have to report monthlySan Francisco Examiner
March 21, 2010
Following those paid to persuade lawmakers to vote in their favor has become a lot easier thanks to a new law that went into effect Jan. 1.
Lobbyists are paid by clients to influence the outcomes of key decisions on developments, policy stances, contracts and other business carried out on a daily basis inside City Hall.
In January and February, 70 city officials were contacted by a lobbyist at least once. In the first month of the year, lobbyists had 55 contacts with members of the Board of Supervisors, including seven with Supervisor Carmen Chu and six with Supervisor Eric Mar. Chu met with a lobbyist on behalf of Walgreens to talk about “licensing,” and twice with a lobbyist of a gallery owner seeking to win approval of a special permit.
The majority of the contacts lobbyists had with city officials related to planning and building permits.
Under a new law that went into effect Jan. 1, lobbyists must report whom they meet, when and why, and they must do so every month, no longer just every quarter. Filings for each month are due 15 days after the month’s end. The data are available on a new Web site operated by the Ethics Commission.
There are 26 lobbyist firms registered with the Ethics Commission and 37 lobbyists registered who work for those firms. They represent 116 clients, including Walgreen Co., AT&T Inc., Pfizer Inc., Zipcar Inc., Academy of Art University and Mission Yogurt Inc.
Lobbying in San Francisco is a strong industry. Lobbyists were paid a total of $6.4 million in 2009 to influence decision-makers and $7.2 million in 2008. A lobbyist is anyone who earns at least $3,000 within three consecutive months and makes contact with city officials.
The law was drafted by the Ethics Commission, during a more than a one year process, and adopted by the Board of Supervisors.
“We started hearing noise from the community that we needed to do more with lobbyists,” said Ethics Commission Executive Director John St. Croix, as the reason for the new requirements.
“The thought that lobbyists are by nature bad people, I think that idea is a little too easy,” said lobbyist Sam Lauter of the firm Barnes, Mosher, Whitehurst, Lauter and Partners Inc. But he said the new requirements are “not a huge deal. The intent is good.”
The disclosure requirements are “essential to protect public confidence in the responsiveness and representative nature of government officials,” according to the law.
“The new Web site makes San Francisco’s already transparent lobbying industry even more accessible,” said Alex Clemens, a lobbyist and founder of Barbary Coast Consulting. “A view of what’s going on inside City Hall is just one click away.”
A new law increasing the frequency lobbying activity must be disclosed has gone into effect.
* New law went into effect Jan. 1
* Law comes among calls for increased transparency of lobbying activity
* Requires lobbyists report contacts made with city officials every month; old law required quarterly reports
* Lobbyists required to list every contact made with a city official, including when and why
Source: Ethics Commission
See this article in the San Francisco Examiner