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S.D. Ethics Commission Looks to Overhaul Lobbying Laws

Audio

Aired 4/19/09

San Diego’s Ethics Commission meets this week to consider sweeping changes to the city’s lobbying laws. The commission says the public deserves to know who influences whom in local government. But critics say the reforms go too far. KPBS Radio’s Andrew Phelps reports.

You hear it every election season: Candidate X sold out to Special Interest Y. Lobbyists penetrate every nook and cranny of government, and the City of San Diego is no exception. The city’s Ethics Commission is proposing reforms that rile local lobbyists. Stacey Fulhorst heads up the commission. She says one reform would require lobbyists to specifically name the city officials they contact.

Fulhorst: It is important for the public to know the amount of influence that a lobbyist has in terms of whether or not you meet with a staffer or whether you have direct contact with a chief of staff or the councilmember himself or herself.

Sutton: That does not serve any public interest.

That’s Jim Sutton, a lawyer who represents lobbyists. He says this rule might put a chill on a city official’s willingness to meet with people like developers.

Sutton:  That infringes on the right of that real estate developer to just get their project approved. They have to meet with city officials in order to, you know, get the details worked out.

Stacey Fulhorst says lobbyists are just upset because they don’t want more public scrutiny. The city’s Ethic Commission meets in public later this week to discuss more ways of regulating lobbyists at City Hall. For KPBS, I’m Andrew Phelps.

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