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New Santa Monica Lobbying Ordinance Goes Before Council, Activist Group Opposes

Santa Monica Real Estate Company, Roque and Mark

Pacific Park, Santa Monica Pier

Harding Larmore Kutcher & Kozal, LLP  law firm
Harding, Larmore
Kutcher & Kozal, LLP

Convention and Visitors Bureau Santa Monica

By Jonathan Friedman
Associate Editor

October 26, 2015 -- A simplified version of an ordinance that went before the Santa Monica City Council in July requiring lobbyists to register and disclose various information will be presented for a vote on Tuesday.

The slow-growth activist group Santa Monica Coalition for a Livable City (SMCLC) says the proposal is not strong enough.

“The revised ordinance is basic and simple,” City Attorney Marsha Moutrie wrote in the report to the council.

“It would merely require lobbyists to register with the City, disclose minimal information about their lobbying activities and pay a fee to cover costs of the registration program.”

Among the features included in the previous proposal that were eliminated are a requirement for quarterly disclosure of financial and client information and a list of actions lobbyists are prohibited from doing.

Also, only the City can enforce the regulation. The previous version of the ordinance allowed individuals to bring civil action against alleged violators.

Diana Gordon from SMCLC wrote in an email to The Lookout that the ordinance was so weak, it “might as well have been crafted by lobbyists rather than to meet good government disclosures.”

She attached a statement from SMCLC outlining various features it wanted included in an ordinance.

Among SMCLC's demands are the reintroduction of the ability for individuals to take civil action and a list of things lobbyists are prohibited from doing.

The prohibitions listed in the previous version of the ordinance included that a lobbyist could not “intentionally deceive or attempt to deceive a City Official” or “act or refrain from acting with the purpose and intent of placing any City Official under personal obligation to the lobbyist.”

Also, SMCLC wants lobbyists to name specific City officials with whom they speak as well as extensive financial information.

A lobbyist is defined in the ordinance as:

Any individual who receives economic consideration as the employee, representative or contractor of a person or entity other than the City of Santa Monica for communicating with any elected official, officer or employee of the City for the purpose of influencing a legislative or administrative action.

Requiring lobbyists to register is not rare. Several nearby cities--including Los Angeles, West Hollywood and Beverly Hills--have this requirement.

In a separate measure, City staff has put forward a proposal that would require council members to disclose “off-record contacts” before voting on quasi-judicial matters, such as appeals of Planning Commission decisions.

"This change would help ensure fairness and a complete record," staff wrote.

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