For release September 17, 2020
San Diego's citizens rely on their government to represent them, not special interests. That's why we make lobbyists register when they're getting paid to influence public opinions.
But there are loopholes that allow people to influence public decisions without telling the public they're getting paid by special interests. They can take money to testify at public meetings - pretending to be there on behalf of the community and passing off their paid testimony as evidence of true community support.
Indeed, a clever lobbyist could stop registering with the city entirely and hide all of their client activity this way. They can actively advertise their ability to influence public decisions for money by posing as community activists. They could even advertise lists of which city boards committees that they themselves serve on, with the promise that they will be able to secretly influence city decisions in exchange for cash.
Former San Diego Ethics Committee Chair, Gil Cabrera agrees this problem must be solved:
“When we wrote the lobbying ordinance, we did not anticipate that individuals would take special interest money to pretend to be concerned citizens expressing their views on matters before the City Council and city boards. We need to close that loophole to bring restore transparency to our public discourse.”
That's why I'm proposing a new addition to the San Diego lobbying ordinance. Under this proposal
1) We will require lobbyists, their subcontractors, and others who are paid to testify at public meetings, to disclose that fact at the beginning of their comments or testimony.
2) We will expand the reporting requirements, conflict of interest, and lobbying rules to include more board and commission members; and
3) We will bar lobbyists from advertising their roles on boards and commissions to get lobbying clients.
San Diegans deserve better. It's long past time to close these loopholes.