Longtime readers will remember my interest in a little issue with lobbying that was forming into a storm at the city of San Diego’s Ethics Commission.
A while ago, I tried to give readers a peek into how lobbyists work as campaign fundraisers and how interesting that is. After all, it’s one thing to know that a paid lobbyist for a group of special interests is meeting with a certain elected official. It’s a whole lot more interesting to know that a city lobbyist also happened to raise tens of thousands of dollars for that particular elected official.
Today, the Ethics Commission’s staff released a stunning proposal (that you can read here) that could change everything at City Hall. The commission will consider recommending to the City Council that it prohibit lobbyists from lobbying officials for whom they raised money.
Obviously, this is preliminary. To make its way from the Ethics Commission staff, to the full commission’s board, to the Rules Committee, to the City Council and then through the mayor’s frightening veto power, the proposal will have to have a lot of wind at its back.
But essentially the rule would be simple. Right now, when a person wants to run for office, his or her fundraiser gathers all the lobbyists together and asks them just how much money they can gather from their interests. The lobbyists literally mark the envelopes that contain the checks that come pouring in to ensure that they get credit individually for raising the money.
So while they personally may only give the candidate a check at the maximum $250 allowed, they may actually be responsible for raising something like $40,000 for a particular candidate. That may or may not give them more of that candidate’s ear when the candidate is actually, say, a member of the City Council.
The Ethics Commission proposal would still allow lobbyists to fundraise, but they wouldn’t be allowed to then lobby the people they helped get into office.
Here’s the staff’s reasoning.
Get ready for the free speech argument: Lobbyists will argue that they can talk to whomever they want, whenever they want.
Let the games begin.