|Richmond Law Opens Up
November 21, 1996
WEST COUNTY TIMES
CITY TO REQUIRE INFORMATION, LISTS OF CLIENTS
Thursday, November 21, 1996
RICHMOND The City Council has narrowly passed an ordinance requiring lobbyists to provide detailed information on their activities.
By a 5-4 vote Tuesday, the council endorsed the measure, which was spearheaded by Councilman Tom Butt and modeled after a San Francisco law.
Its intent is to open the lobbying process to public view.
"There's a lot of money in Richmond, and a lot of major players who spend a lot of money to get various pieces of legislation through," Butt said Wednesday. "The public has a right to know what they're up to."
Butt said he did not want to prohibit lobbying. The ordinance "just requires them to tell who's giving how much to whom, and for what," he said.
The ordinance requires any person or business hired to influence legislation, or any person who spends at least $3,000 in a calendar year to do so, to register with the City Clerk's Office.
Every three months, lobbyists must provide the city with details of their activities, including an accounting of money spent on behalf of certain clients, a list of clients' names and addresses, all payments from clients and the issues on which they are lobbying. Once filed, the information will be public.
The deadline for initial registration and reporting is June 30. Those who fail to follow the requirements may be sued by the city for up to $1,000 per violation.
Voting for the lobbyist requirements were Butt, Mayor Rosemary Corbin and council members Alex Evans, John Marquez and Donna Powers.
Vice Mayor Richard Griffin and councilmembers Nat Bates, Lesa McIntosh and Irma Anderson opposed it.
Anderson and McIntosh tried unsuccessfully to kill Butt's measure by offering a pale alternative. In that version, the only disclosure required would be the lobbyist's name and the name of the client or company.
"I don't believe we need it," McIntosh said. "I believe it's over-burdensome. On the one hand, we're reducing staff. On the other hand, we're increasing staff duties."
Anderson said many business people opposed the law, arguing it was "over-regulation."
Not everyone who tries to influence legislation is considered a lobbyist under the new law. Those exempt from reporting requirements include:
*Neighborhood councils and members of the councils authorized to speak on their behalf.
*Public officials acting in an official capacity.
No business or organization will be considered a lobbyist unless it pays its employees or members to lobby on its behalf, and unless those lobbying have at least 10 contacts with officers of the city in any two consecutive months.
City staff resolved an earlier question about a possible conflict of interest on the part of Councilman Evans, a public pollster who has some lobbyist clients.
Evans said the City Attorney and officials from the state Fair Political Practices Commission decided that if Evans was not affected economically by the ordinance, he was free to vote on it.
Officials determined that since the ordinance does not restrict lobbying, lobbyists would not lose money.