Lobbyists Get the Red Light
Sacramento signals special interests that they will be held to a higher standard.
Despite being the butt of as many jokes and gibes as
lawyering, political lobbying and campaign managing are
legitimate professional pursuits. Not, however, at the same
time. The state Assembly on Monday started patching a
loophole by passing measures designed to absolutely
separate the two roles. There was nothing subtle about the
incident last year that prompted the Legislature to act.
Lobbyist/campaign consultant Richie Ross, always known for
his sharp elbows, was accused of indirectly threatening to
"get" lawmakers who declined to support a bill sponsored by
the United Farm Workers Union, one of his clients.
Ross had served as a campaign manager for the Assembly
members in question, Lois Wolk (D-Davis) and Gloria McLeod
(D-Chino) and potentially had the power and knowledge to
affect their future political success. AB 1785 by
Assemblyman Dario Frommer (D-Los Feliz) would bar anyone
from lobbying a lawmaker if the lobbyist also works as a
campaign official for the politician. As Frommer put it,
accurately: "A political consultant who knows intimate
details of elected officials' lives and is a creditor of
their political campaigns should not be lobbying them." The
bill passed on a vote of 69 to 0.
AB 1784 by Wolk would apply the same restrictions to
someone lobbying state constitutional officers, such as the
governor or state treasurer. Her bill passed 68 to 0.
Ross insisted he did nothing wrong. Under the letter of
current law, perhaps so. But his behavior, as described by
aides to the two lawmakers, certainly crossed ethical
lines. At present, Ross appears to be the only campaign
manager or consultant who also is a registered lobbyist,
leading to the argument that the legislation was overkill.
In fact, Ross' great success in his dual role would no
doubt have attracted others to such a lucrative and
potentially powerful dual position. The two bills should
put an end to any such temptation.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has been clear about wanting to
change the way the state does business. The Frommer-Wolk
legislation is a good start, signaling lobbyists and
special interests that they will be held to a higher
standard than in the past, with a real civil or criminal
penalty for failing to comply. The Senate should pass the
measure quickly and send it right along to Schwarzenegger.
See the article on Los Angeles Times website