DSA-LA Toolkit for Public Commenting on the Municipal Lobbying Ordinance

The City Ethics Commission, what is this about?

The Los Angeles City Ethics Commission is required by law to administer City and state laws relating to campaign financing, governmental ethics, lobbying, and contracts. They provide education and advice about how to comply with the laws and why complying is important. They also process and provide public access to disclosure statements filed by candidates, committees, officeholders, city officials, lobbying entities, bidders, contractors, and others. Some of their most important duties are conducting audits and confidential enforcement investigations to help ensure compliance as well as analyzing policy issues, evaluating existing laws, and making legislative recommendations.

The LA City Ethics Commission has been recommending since 2018 that the definition of what constitutes a lobbyist be changed so that they are better able to enforce already existing transparency and lobbying laws. Currently a lobbyist is defined as an individual who, in a consecutive three-month period, does both of the following:

Has at least one direct communication with a City official in an attempt to influence City action, and is compensated to engage in at least 30 hours of lobbying activities in connection with attempts to influence City action. 

The LA City Ethics Commission wants the 30 hour qualification removed from the current definition because it is largely unenforceable as this time is self-reported. This allows many lobbyist activities in LA City Hall to go unmonitored and unreported. This is key for ethics enforcement because it removes plausible deniability regarding who should and should not be filing disclosure statements. They are also recommending increasing the frequency and timeliness of the required disclosures for lobbyists. Currently the timeframes can leave gaps large enough between when lobbying activity takes place and when it shows up in a publicly available disclosure that the matter being lobbied to might be resolved before disclosure is required. And lastly there are loopholes in spending that allow for lobbyists to influence city legislation through spending, avoiding contact with City officials entirely, and without disclosure. One area that would be better regulated under this change would be the lobbying on behalf of

 Business Improvement Districts which are one of the driving factors of criminalizing

 homelessness in Los Angeles.


When the LA City Ethics Commission sends these recommendations to the Los Angeles City Council, the council has two years to act on those recommendations before they expire.

LA City Ethics Commission Proposed Amendments to Lobbying Laws:

 https://ethics.lacity.org/PDF/agenda/2020/December/20201208-Item8-MLORetransmittal.pdf

 

DSA-LA is supporting this effort in hopes that the new city council members, Nithya Raman, Kevin De Leon, and Mark Ridley Thomas, will advocate for Council President Nury Martinez to schedule the updated municipal lobbying ordinances for a vote, and have them passed into law before they can expire.

Please tell the LA City Ethics Commission what you think about the 2018 recommendations or the lobbying laws in general, and how they apply to lobbying entities such as lobbyists, lobbyist employers, lobbying firms, development expediters, Business Improvement Districts, nonprofit organizations, etc.

You can submit public comment NOW via the following channels:

Make written public comment through the LA City Ethics Website:

 https://ethics.lacity.org/policy/#publiccomment

Make written public comment via email to the LA City Ethics Commission::

 ethics.policy@lacity.org and bcc electoralpolitics@dsa-la.org

 

Example 1:

I am in support of amending the City’s Municipal Lobbying Ordinance and asking that the 2018 MLO be re-transmitted to the City Council. The Municipal Lobbying Ordinance has not been comprehensively updated since it was first adopted in 1994 and allowing the special interests of the well-connected to continue to go unregulated and under reported access to our public officials is an abuse of the public trust. The LA CIty Ethics Commission has an obligation to the residents of Los Angeles to re-transmit the 2018 MLO without further delay.

Example 2:

I am urging the LA City Ethics Commission to retransmit the 2018 Municipal Lobbying Ordinance to the City Council. There hasn’t been a significant update since its adoption in 1994 and it has allowed developers and special interest lobbyists unregulated access to City Council. The Ethics Commission has an obligation to protect the public trust and must act now to retransmit the MLO.

Social media example:

Lobbying laws in LA haven’t been updated in over 20 yrs! Help stop corruption in LA City Council and demand that the LA City Ethics Commission resend the 2018 Municipal Lobbying Ordinance to Nury Martinez. Public comment is open now through next week: https://bit.ly/3ov3L0m #MLO

There will also be three special meetings for public comment THIS WEEK:

  • Tuesday, January 12, 2021 9:00 a.m.
  • Wednesday, January 13, 2021 12:00 p.m.
  • Thursday, January 14, 2021 6:00 p.m.

The live audio for these meetings may be heard by calling (213) 621-2489.

Public comments may be provided by email to ethics.commission@lacity.org or verbally during Item 2 on this agenda by calling (669) 254-5252. Enter meeting ID 160 300 7558 followed by #. Press # again when prompted for participant ID. Once admitted to the meeting, press *9 to request to speak.

The City does not discriminate on the basis of disability and, upon request, will provide reasonable accommodation to ensure equal access to its programs, services, and activities. Please make your request for auxiliary aids and services at least 72 hours before the meeting. Requests for sign language interpreters are strongly recommended at least five business days before the meeting. Public documents regarding an agenda item that are distributed to a majority of the commissioners may be viewed during normal business hours at the Ethics Commission’s office. For additional information, please contact us at (213) 978-1960 or ethics.lacity.org.