Beverly Hills Greatly Expands Its Lobbying Law (February 2018)

Beverly Hills has enacted a new lobbying law which greatly expands the universe of individuals who have to register as Beverly Hills lobbyists (or “municipal legislative advocates,” as the law refers to them) and which places new, severe penalties on individuals who do not comply.  The new law takes effect today, Thursday, February 8.

The new law maintains the same, general reporting regime: lobbyists file a registration form with the City Clerk listing their clients, and then amend the form whenever they add a new client or a new matter for an existing client, but do not have to file comprehensive disclosure reports on a quarterly basis, as several other jurisdictions require.  However, the new law greatly expands who will have to register, in several ways:

*    Registration will be required for contacting City employees, whereas the prior law only covered contacts with elected officials and Commissioners.

*    “Grassroots lobbying” – i.e., urging members of the public to contact City officials through a social media campaign, newspaper ad, etc. – will now have to be reported.

*    Individuals doing public relations, media relations or community outreach in connection with a City matter will have to register even if they never actually contact a City official or employee.

*    Architects, engineers, attorneys and others working on a City matter will have to register, even if they never actually contact a City official or employee.

*    Real estate brokers who perform “due diligence” for someone considering buying property and doing a project which will require City approval will have to register.

Lobbyists will have to be more diligent when completing their registration forms:

*    Lobbyists now have to “estimate” the fees that they will earn from a client for a lobbying project, and disclose these fees in “ranges” on the registration form.

*    Lobbyists must now amend their registration forms to add a new client within 10 days of either directly contacting a City official or employee on behalf of a client orsigning an engagement letter with the client to provide lobbying services.  I.e., registration could be required weeks or months before a lobbyist actually begins lobbying on behalf of a client, and is now required even if the lobbyist ends up never actually lobbying for the client.

*    Lobbyists will also have to amend their registration forms within 10 days of the end of a project.

The liability for not complying with these new reporting requirements has been increased significantly.  Although lobbyists still face fines up to $500 for willful or knowing violations, under the new law, lobbyists whose violations are deemed “material” will be disqualified from lobbying in the City for at least 6 months.

New registration forms are available on the City Clerk’s website.  Lobbyists who are now registered will have to file new forms, including fee estimates, by Monday, February 19 (i.e., 10 days after the new law takes effect).  Architects, engineers, attorneys, public relations professionals, media relations consultants, and community affairs consultants working with a client on a matter which will require City action or approval must also register by that deadline.

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Feel free to call any Sutton Law Firm attorney or Political Compliance Specialist with any questions about this new Beverly Hills lobbying law, or if you need assistance determining whether you or another consultant working on your team has to register.