|Lobby Rules Aren't
January 19, 1997
WEST COUNTY TIMES
CRITICS OF RICHMOND LAW SHOULD NOW HELP IT WORK
Sunday, January 19,
The Richmond City Council did the right thing last week in voting to regulate lobbyists.
Now it will be up to the people affected by the rules especially certain businesses to do the right thing by helping to make the plan work.
Nothing will be gained by pursuing the shaky and self-serving arguments of those who opposed the regulations. Much could be lost in good will and a valuable public image if opponents persist in sniping at a law already passed.
There's no disgrace in losing a good fight after putting up the best possible arguments against a course of action deemed unwise.
But to continue the fruitless contest after losing it is obstructionism.
The new requirements are simple to state: Beginning in April, lobbyists will be required to register with the city if they send more than $3,000 a year to influence legislation.
Businesses must also report whenever they spend $50 or more to lobby a council member or other city official.
"Burdensome and onerous," said Dennis Spaniol, executive director of the West County Council of Industries. Really?
Businesses keep a lot of financial records, or they should. Somebody in the office has the responsibility, or should have it, of keeping track of expenditures what comes in as well as what goes out.
"Embarrassing" maybe a less loaded, more accurate word to describe some objections lobbyists raise about the public's right to see how they operate. And if lobbyists prefer to keep quiet about how much they spend to influence the direction the city takes or how much they spend to take officials to lunch then the new law is more than welcome and long overdue.
The regulations give lobbyists a grace period of four months to get acquainted to the new rules and to adjust their operations, if necessary, to follow the law. That's a gracious concession and should be accepted by the opponents in the same manner.
Become a part of the solution; not continue to be the problem.
Mayor Rosemary Corbin, Vice Mayor Donna Powers, and Councilmen Tom Butt, Alex Evans and John Marquez voted for the regulations.
Councilmembers Nat Bates, Richard Griffin and Lesa McIntosh voted no. Councilwoman Irma Anderson abstained.
The majority has acted wisely to take public business out into the open where it belongs. The opponents cannot argue there's anything wrong with that, nor do they. But their criticisms, however well they reason them, will prove to be insubstantial and the law will work in the public interest.
Contrary to sniping by some business interests, there's nothing in the law to discourage business people from talking with city officials. It would only require that they keep track of these contacts and, following reasonable guidelines, file the information with the City Clerk.
Anybody who has a problem with that is a living example of why this sort of watchfulness is necessary in the first place.