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Capitol Alert
By Taryn Luna
tluna@sacbee.com
June 21, 2016 – 4:05 PM

  • Loopholes allow consultants to influence legislation without registering with the state
  • FPPC held a public meeting Tuesday to gather comment on the proposed change

California’s political watchdog is considering a regulatory change to draw “shadow lobbyists,” consultants paid to influence legislation, into the public eye.

Loopholes in the law can allow consultants to act as lobbyists without officially registering with the secretary of state’s office, disclosing their clients or their attempts to sway lawmakers. The commission held a public meeting Tuesday to discuss proposed regulatory changes.

“For too long there’s been a portion of the industry that has gone unregulated,” said Phillip Ung, director of legislation and external affairs at the Fair Political Practices Commission. “The laws and regulations related to lobbying have remained unchanged as the industry has come up with new tactics that essentially keep voters in the dark.”

The amendment establishes a legal presumption of whether a payment is made for lobbying services. Under the proposed changes, a payment will be considered compensation for lobbying if the person receiving the money has been paid by a business or outside group to communicate with legislators and other officials to influence legislation or administrative actions. The compensation must total at least $2,000 in a given month.

The rule changes allow anyone in question to rebut the claims with evidence of their activities. The FPPC hopes the change increases the incentive for consultants and others working in and around the state’s lobbying industry to keep better records of their activities, while giving the agency more freedom to press cases against shadow lobbyists.

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