San Francisco Ethics Commission Proposes New Limits on Lobbyists (May 2016) 320

The Ethics Commission is considering a proposal by a group of “gadflies,” calling themselves the “Friends of Ethics,” to place additional legal restrictions on registered lobbyists.  The proposal would:


  • Completely ban all “gifts” from lobbyists to elected City officials and employees and eliminate all exceptions.  E.g., lobbyists will no longer be permitted to take City employees to lunches which cost $25 or less and will no longer be able to invite Supervisors to sit at their tables during charity events.


  • Limit campaign contributions from lobbyists to City candidates to $50 per election.


  • Prohibit lobbyists from “bundling” or otherwise delivering campaign contributions to City candidates.


Although the Ethics Commission could forward these proposals to the Board of Supervisors for adoption by ordinance, it instead plans to place them on the November ballot.  Circumventing the Board to pass new legislation by ballot measure seems to be a new Commission trend – as you may remember, the Commission placed its grassroots lobbying proposal directly on the November 2015 ballot.


The Commission will hold public input meetings in the upcoming weeks, and will consider whether to place the measure on the November ballot at its June or July meetings.  We would be surprised if the Commission does not ultimately decide to place the proposals on the November ballot, and would be even more surprised if the voters do not approve this “ethics reform” measure.


Lobbyists on the state-level and in several other local jurisdictions face similar legal restrictions.  However, in San Francisco the proposed bans on gifts, contributions and bundling will affect certain types of lobbyists more than others – because union representatives still do not register with the City, and 501(c)(3) employees are exempt from registration.


Feel free to call any Sutton Law Firm attorney with questions about these proposals.



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