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Media Coverage
Bishop Pushes For Lobbying Ordinance
December 6, 1996



Friday, December 6, 1996
Section: news
Page: A11

Some of California's largest cities and counties have forced lobbyists to reveal their activities to the public, and now Supervisor Gayle Bishop hopes Contra Costa County will do the same.

She's proposing that county leaders adopt a law that would require lobbyists to register publicly and reveal who is paying them for what purpose.

"There's no question, on the part of the public, there is a definite lack of confidence in the way the county does business," she said. "People do not feel a part of the process. Anyone who believes in open government and better government would support this ordinance. I think it will make a lot of people much more comfortable."

The law would not prohibit lobbying.

Instead, lobbyists would have to report every three months what policies they are trying to influence, who their clients are and how much they are being paid.

Neighborhood associations and public officials would be exempt from the regulations.

Anybody violating the law would be subject to civil fines of up to $1,000 per violation.

Supervisors will discuss the matter at their meeting Tuesday. It is scheduled to be considered at noon or later.

Lobbying laws have been in place for several years in San Francisco, Orange County, San Diego and Los Angeles.

Bishop is modeling her proposal on a Richmond draft law.

In Richmond, city leaders narrowly voted in favor of the proposal last month, but still must cast a second vote before the plan becomes law.

Many business leaders are pressuring politicians to ditch the plan, saying it would create burdensome regulations. In response, Councilman Tom Butt, who is championing the idea, has agreed to loosen the law's threshold so fewer lobbyists would be affected.

Both the Richmond and Contra Costa laws would only cover lobbyists who contact government officials at least 10 times in a two-month period or receive at least $1,000 in any month or $3,000 in any year to lobby.

Among those a county law would affect is a top Bishop nemesis, former Supervisor Tom Powers, who has quietly lobbied the board for unions, developers and a garbage firm since leaving office in early 1995.

However, Powers' wife, Richmond City Councilwoman Donna Powers, has been a strong advocate of the Richmond lobbying regulations.

Tom Powers said Thursday he wouldn't oppose a county law.

"I think that's a policy question for (county supervisors), not for me," he said. "One way or another, if they want to do that, that's fine with me."

Tom Stewart of Inform Public Relations, who lobbies for several industrial firms, said he's concerned that any law county leaders pass set a level playing field, so that environmentalists, as well as business interests, reveal their lobbying activities.