San Francisco Ethics Commission Streamlined Enforcement Program for Lobbyist Reporting Violations

March 2021

The San Francisco Ethics Commission has adopted a new “Streamlined Administrative Resolution Program,” which permits certain violations of the City’s lobbying law to be resolved through lower, fixed penalties – similar to the issuance of parking tickets. The new fines are $500, $700 or $900, and the reporting violations covered include: (1) not registering for a new client; (2) missing a monthly report; (3) omitting a client, payment or contact from a monthly report; (4) making an unlawful political contribution; (5) not completing mandatory lobbyist training; and (6) not keeping adequate back-up documentation for reports.
Commission staff still has the option to exclude violations from the streamlined process based on the level of public harm, the lobbyist’s level of experience, etc. In addition, violations are automatically excluded if the lobbyist purposefully tried to conceal the activity or if the total unreported activity for that reporting period is greater than $50,000 or 20 percent of the activity required to be reported.
Although this new streamlined program means that violations can be resolved more efficiently, and that fines will be more predictable and lower, the Ethics Commission expects to pursue more fines against more lobbyists because staff will be able to process streamlined matters more quickly than regular enforcement matters. This new enforcement mechanism is therefore another reason to make certain you are reporting all of your lobbying contacts with City officers, registering all new clients within 5 days, completing your training, etc.
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Feel free to contact a Sutton Law Firm attorney or Political Compliance Specialist if you have any questions regarding the intricacies of the Ethics Commission’s new streamlined enforcement program or lobbyist reporting requirements in general.
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