City Ethics Commission Prepares to Revamp Lobbying Laws; Proposal Builds, Improves on Version Torpedoed in 2010 by Unholy Threesome Consisting of Kerry Morrison, Carol Schatz, and Eric Garcetti

Jessica Levinson, president of the City Ethics Commission, star Lawprof at Loyola, and righteous local media darling.
Jessica Levinson, president of the City Ethics Commission, star Lawprof at Loyola, and righteous local media darling.
If you’ve read the Municipal Lobbying Ordinance of the City of Los Angeles, you will have noted that it’s a bitch to enforce. It defines a lobbyist to be someone who is compensated to influence City action on behalf of a third party for 30 or more hours in any consecutive three months, and then requires lobbyists so-defined to register with the City. Imagine trying to use CPRA and other methods available to the public to pin that beef on some BID employee… I can tell you it’s not an easy task.

You may recall that between 2008 and 2010 the CEC tried to get this unwieldy definition changed to one whose details I won’t go into here, but which would have been far easier to enforce. For whatever reason, Carol Schatz, Kerry Morrison, and a few less luminous lights of the BID world including the perennially mockable Downtown Russell Brown decided for reasons known only to them and their therapists that this was going to destroy the very foundations of Los Angeles. As is their wont, they proceeded to get really fussy and scratch at their own faces till mom made them put their mittens on soon Eric Garcetti, at that time chair of the Rules and Elections Committee, smothered the whole baby in its bed for no discernible reason other than to please his darling BID-babes Kerry and Carol.

Eric Garcetti to Kerry Morrison in 2010: "You don't want to have to register as a lobbyist?  Whatever baby wants, baby gets."  Except, of course, baby still has to register, it's just next to impossible to prove it.
Eric Garcetti to Kerry Morrison in 2010: “You don’t want to have to register as a lobbyist? Whatever baby wants, baby gets.” Except, of course, baby still has to register, it’s just next to impossible to prove it.
So now the staff of the CEC, whose Executive Director is the same Heather Holt who got tarred, feathered, and mocked by Garcetti over this very same issue in 2010, has prepared a new proposed revision of the definition of lobbyist. The Commissioners will be discussing it at their upcoming meeting on August 9, 2016. The new proposal owes some debts to the last proposal, but its central point is quite different. It’s a change to a compensation-based rather than a time-based definition, which is fairly standard around the rest of the country:

We recommend returning to a compensation-based definition and that “lobbyist” be defined as an individual who is entitled to receive $2,000 or more in a calendar year for attempting to influence a City matter on behalf of another person. The attempt to influence would include a direct communication with a City official or employee, and compensation could be either monetary or non-monetary.

There are other aspects to the proposal, some of them important,1 others minor, but this is the central one. The point is that it will make it far easier to decide who’s a lobbyist and who’s not. This will make cases easier to prove or to disprove, and I support it completely. Another exceedingly notable aspect of this new proposal is that, like both the current law and the previous proposal, it does not exempt employees of business improvement districts. They are exempted from just about every other form of oversight that the City of Los Angeles offers, and I think it’s crucial that they continue not to be exempted from this one, even if no one has yet successfully hung a charge on them, or especially because no one has.

If you need reasons just look at the underhanded illegal bullshit shenanigans carried out and funded by the BIDs over street vending. See e.g. how they lied to the LA Times, how John Tronson befouled himself in public in Van Nuys, how Ms. Kerry Morrison obscured her allegiances while lobbying on the matter, how BID Board member Alyssa Van Breene did whatever it was she was doing, and so on and on and on. Under the new definition it would have been child’s play to prove Kerry Morrison for one guilty of unregistered lobbying. Under the current definition not so much.

Anyway, I hope to see you at the Ethics Commission next Tuesday morning. And if you want my prediction for the future, I’m guessing that once the BIDs hear about this, and they will although I don’t believe they have yet,2 they are going to go peak pitbull, just like last time. Whether the CEC has the mojo to overcome their objections, which will be loud, voluminous, undue, tendentious, screedlike rants, I can’t say, but I tend to think not. It’s not just Eric Garcetti who dandles the BIDs on his avuncular knee and gives them whatever they want for Christmas and every other day of the year, but every goddamned official in the entire City, it seems. Not only that, but the City Council has plenty of reasons quite separate from the BIDs for wanting this law to be impossible to enforce. I’m not cynical by disposition, but my work on these matters has made me so. See you Tuesday, friends!


Image of Jessica Levinson is a public record and I got it from CEC website.

  1. Especially the new definitions of “City matter” and “lobbying organization,” but you should read the proposal to understand those.
  2. They’re going to hear about it from this post, anyway. As I’ve stated repeatedly, at least 74% of this blog’s readership consists of Kerry Morrison and her minions and lawyers.
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