Today I sent the following suggestions to my council colleagues on how we can put some real teeth in the Mayor’s proposal to regulate lobbyists and limit campaign contributions:
The purpose of creating a lobbyist registration system is to reduce the likelihood of corruption at City Hall. But for this system to be effective, we must focus on the nature of the problem, then develop a system that will, to the fullest extent possible, create a climate hostile to such corruption.
What corrupt activity are we trying to prevent?
Buying influence from the mayor and councilmembers. Trading money for a favorable vote.
Who would have incentive to bribe an elected official? Who would a corrupt elected official think they could extract a bribe from?
Someone who’s got a financial stake in a decision by the council.
Are paid lobbyists the problem?
No. But like smoke denotes fire, paid lobbyists indicate there’s somebody who has such a significant financial stake in a council decision that they would expend money on a professional to fight on their behalf.
How do we keep a “financial stakeholder” from paying off the mayor or a councilmember?
We can’t. People who are corrupt will find a way around any rule we create. But we can shed so much light on the relationship between a financial stakeholder and city officials that we make it very difficult for them to trade money for influence.
So how do we shed light on the relationship between financial stakeholders and city officials?
By requiring them to disclose the same information we are requiring paid lobbyists to provide. And by requiring both lobbyists and financial stakeholders to disclose information that illuminates and gives context to the extent of their relationships with city officials.
The following changes to the proposed ordinance attempt to accomplish just that. Continue reading