The City Council put into place stricter disclosure requirements for lobbyists this afternoon when it voted unanimously to expand the definition of who must register as lobbyists and to require them to reveal any campaign cash raised for elected officials being lobbied.

The new ordinance, pitched by the Ethics Commission, will require anyone who is paid to advocate city officials on behalf of a client to register with the city clerk. Further, in-house lobbyists for companies and organizations will have to register if they contact city officials more than 10 times in a 60-day span about a municipal decision.

It’s expected that the new ordinance will force the registration of many more lobbyists, who under the old rules must register if within a three-month window they earn more than $2,700 for lobbying the city.

“We’ve found it extremely difficult to enforce based on earnings,” Ethics Commission Executive Director Stacey Fulhorst said.

The commission is also trying to shed light on the nexus between lobbyists’ activities during political campaigns and the influence they wield at City Hall.

The new rules will also require lobbyists to tell which city officials they met with and whether the lobbyists helped fundraise for elected officials. While individuals are limited to $320 for their own contributions, individuals can give a greater boost to a political campaign by vowing to round up thousands of dollars in contributions from other donors.

“If a lobbyist goes as far as to take credit for contributions, they must disclose it,” Fulhorst said.

The council also decided that it would later consider a proposal Mayor Jerry Sanders submitted earlier in the day that would ban lobbyists from making individual political contributions. Fulhorst noted Sanders’ proposal has nothing to do with the commission’s proposal and said it wouldn’t ban lobbyists from hosting fundraisers.

The Ethics Commission’s proposal also limits city officials from receiving more than $10 in gifts from lobbyists in a month. But the council opted to exempt nonprofit groups, such as the Building Industry Association or the San Diego-Imperial Counties Labor Council, from the rule so that officials can attend the dinners those groups stage every year. Council members said attending those events was too important to ban, but played down the influence groups garner by inviting elected officials.

“I would much rather be at home with my family than on the rubber chicken circuit,” Councilman Jim Madaffer said.


Leave a comment

We expect all commenters to be constructive and civil. We reserve the right to delete comments without explanation. You are welcome to flag comments to us. You are welcome to submit an opinion piece for our editors to review.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.