On November 9th Supervisors Nelson, Bates and Moorlach were wrong when they opposed a county lobbyist registration proposal introduced by Supervisor Campbell. This past week it seemed that Supervisor Nelson, and Supervisor Bates had a change of heart. At least it looked that way when Nelson announced that he would propose his own version of lobbying reform for consideration by the board.
It’s a rare occurance when I agree with the folks over at Red County blog. They opposed Campbell’s version and they oppose Nelson’s as well. In the case of this week’s proposal, I find myself in agreement that the proposal is fatally flawed.
The general principle behind the issue of lobbying reform is that the public should have the right to know whoÂ is being paidÂ forÂ influencing the decisions of the Board of Supervisors. The idea is not to track all people who speak with elected officials to influence their decisions, rather it is to specificallyÂ track businesses and their professional lobbyists who are trying to influence the decisions made.
I have to believe that Supervisor Nelson, as an attorney, didn’t just miss the fact that his proposal defines a lobbyist as any person who engages in lobbying activities with any public official of the County of Orange for the purpose of “influencing official action”… He had to know that by not narrowly defining what a lobbyist is, he defines everyone who speaks to an elected official on an issue as one.
It’s almost as if Supervisor Nelson is tossing us a bait and switch proposal which that it looks good at first glance, but the closer you lookÂ the worse it gets. He gets to say he is for reform by introducing a proposal with a poison pill of a definition making it dead on arrival. Leave it to a lawyer to come up with this slight of hand.
The State of California has a clear definition of who and what a lobbyist is. A lobbyist is an individual who: is compensated (other than reimbursement for reasonable travel expenses) for directly communicating with a qualifying official (other than administrative testimony) when trying to influence legislative or administrative action (such as bills and regulations).
Registering county lobbyists is a good start on the road to transparency and open government. Defining who should register requires a bit more finesse than what is being proposed. Hopefully the Board will tweak the definition to be more in line with what a lobbyist is when they discuss this proposal today. It would be good to have this be a step forward, rather than a good idea that creates more problems than it solves.