I got this e-mail from a friend this morning about my column on the Ethics Commission and its lobbying ordinance.

Very naive. This ordinance does not address the issues that got us into the mess we are in here in SD.

I knew I’d get some flack along these lines.

Look, I never said that these regulations — if implemented earlier — would have prevented the fiscal and legal problems from which City Hall is supposedly recovering.

No, I think it provides a window into how people get elected and the influence lobbyists and others have on elections.

The bottom line is simple: This law will give the public more information on how campaigns operate. I decided that I don’t think it will be difficult to implement — lobbyists and campaigns are already keeping track of how much money the lobbyist raises for a candidate. They can easily write that information down for all of us to see.

I believe that providing the public more access to information like this is a good thing.

And, while I’m on the subject, there have been a lot of specious attacks on the Ethics Commission’s work.

The best example, as always though, came from the Union-Tribune last week.

I thought it was curious that the Union-Tribune’s editorial board would passionately oppose a law that provides for more disclosure. After all, opposing public access to information seems like an odd stance for a “watchdog.”

Here’s what the board said:

Sam the Grocer won’t have to report his contacts with San Diego City Hall about potholes and pay a lobbyist registration fee. Even the Ethics Commission couldn’t stomach those two staff-favored changes in the city’s lobbying ordinance.

That’s one perfect example of the staff’s overzealous intent to rid San Diego of even the appearance of improper influence by lobbyists. The staff and the commission have now narrowed their target to the evil, greedy professional lobbyists paid to influence municipal decisions. Officials of unions and nonprofit advocacy groups who flit about City Hall remain exempt unless they’re paid $1,000 or more.

Sounds like a great argument. Problem is, it was totally incorrect.

I’d explain but why don’t I just let the U-T? Here’s what it ran the next day:

Yesterday’s editorial “Sam’s off the hook/Unfortunately, so are major city lobbyists” erred in stating that nonprofit groups were not covered by a $1,000 limit on registering as a lobbyist in the Ethics Commission’s proposed changes to San Diego’s lobbying ordinance. In fact, lobbyists hired by coalitions or other organizations must report the names of the individual members of the group who have contributed $1,000 or more to the lobbying activities. The changes also require that all lobbyists paid more than $1 must register with the commission. The Union-Tribune regrets the error.

I’ll be interested to see if the so-called Readers’ Representative takes a look at how that one happened.


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