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By Alison Noon, Associated Press
Jul. 21, 2016 – 2:17 AM ET

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California’s top political watchdog is championing a bid to crack down on lobbyists who fail to disclose efforts to influence government officials.

The Fair Political Practices Commission is scheduled to consider a proposal Thursday supported by commission chairwoman Jodi Remke that would allow state regulators to require suspected lobbyists to provide evidence showing whether they’re being paid to influence government officials.

Remke and agency attorneys say investigators are currently stymied in most probes of suspected unregistered lobbyists because the people who are targeted can simply say that they do not qualify as lobbyists.

The commission will consider whether to change the process so investigators who suspect people of unregistered lobbying can require them to provide evidence that the investigators would then use to determine whether or not the unregistered lobbying actually took place.

Lobbyists are required to register with the state if the amount they make for communicating with government officials reaches $2,000 in any given month. The change would allow investigators to demand evidence about their financial gains generated through contact with government officials.

Critics say the proposal would illegally require alleged unregistered lobbyists to prove their innocence.

They say many lawyers, support staff at lobbying firms and citizens who reach out to legislators could be required to demonstrate that their jobs do not involve swaying public policy — or face administrative or judicial sanctions.

Remke and agency attorneys said stricter enforcement is needed because that system for identifying lobbyists is largely self-regulated.

“How do they know if they’re complying with the law unless they’re already monitoring their activity?” Remke said. “We think of this as an obligation for people to understand their responsibilities.”

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