Oakland Lobbying Law Alert (April 2019)

The Oakland Public Ethics Commission just amended the City’s lobbying law for the first time in years. Most of these changes are administrative and appropriate: waiving the lobbyist registration fee for 501(c)(3) nonprofits with under $750,000 in annual revenues; reducing the registration fee for small businesses with under $200,000 in gross revenues and for entities which register late in the year; moving the filing deadline for quarterly reports from the 30th day after the close of the quarter to the last day of the month following the quarter; capping the $10 per day late filing penalties at $1,000; and instituting mandatory training for lobbyists.
One change is more substantive, however. The law now gives the Ethics Commission the power to require additional information on quarterly reports, above and beyond what’s outlined in the law (subject to City Council approval), if the Commission believes that the information would be relevant to the public.
On the one hand, the Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego ethics commissions technically also have the power to ask for additional information from lobbyists beyond what is explicitly listed in their laws. These other ethics commission have only used this power, however, for relatively small additions: e.g., listing year-to-date totals for fees as well as fees paid during the quarter; providing email addresses; etc.
The Oakland Public Ethics Commission plans to use this new power in broader ways. Most notably, the primary goal is to require Oakland lobbyists to disclose the fees which they earn from clients on their quarterly reports. Although the reporting form currently asks for this information, the requirement is not listed in the law, and the Ethics Commission has (begrudgingly) confirmed in the past that lobbyists are not legally obligated to complete this section of the form. We expect the Commission to pass a resolution in the near future requiring lobbyists to disclose fees earned from clients.
Also notable: we also expect the Commission to pass a resolution requiring in-house lobbyists of businesses, trade associations and other nonprofits to disclose the percentage of their salaries relating to Oakland lobbying; this new reporting requirement would require lobbyists to conduct a legal analysis about reportable v. non-reportable activities, and would require lobbyists to maintain back-up documentation for these calculations.
We will of course keep you informed of any required changes to the lobbyist reporting requirements.

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Feel free to contact a Sutton Law Firm attorney or Political Compliance Specialist if you have any questions regarding the Oakland lobbying law.


About the Sutton Law Firm

The Sutton Law Firm specializes in political and election law, representing businesses, individuals, candidates, ballot measures, PACs and nonprofit organizations involved in the political and legislative processes on the state, local and national levels. The firm offers its clients a full range of legal, reporting and litigation services.