The West Hollywood City Council has tentatively approved a measure that would require political lobbyists to register with the city.
The measure was approved unanimously by the council last week, but still requires a final vote before becoming law. It mirrors laws passed by Congress, the state Legislature and the Los Angeles City Council.
Lobbyists would have to provide their names, business addresses and telephone numbers and give information about the business or organization they represent.
Councilman Alan Viterbi, who introduced the measure, said it was necessary "to restore faith in government. Elected officials need to know whether they're being approached by interested citizens or paid lobbyists. And the public needs to know who is trying to influence their laws."
The measure defines a lobbyist as "any individual who is employed, retained or contracts for economic consideration to communicate with any elective officials or any officer or employee of the City of West Hollywood for the purpose of influencing a legislative or administrative action."
Thus far, Viterbi said, there have been no cases of lobbyists "misportraying themselves. On the other hand, people don't come up to us and tell us that they're lobbyists. It's something that would be nice to know."
Viterbi said he had not received any adverse reaction from lobbyists.
Charles Isham, executive vice president of the Apartment Assn. of Greater Los Angeles--a landlords' organization that maintains paid lobbyists in Sacramento and Los Angeles--said he agreed with the law.
"We have no objections with it," Isham said. "In fact, I can see nothing but benefits for the public."
Isham said that the association, which has been trying to moderate a permanent rent control law under consideration by the West Hollywood council, would probably not hire a full-time lobbyist to work in West Hollywood. Isham said that Sol Genuth, an association spokesman who has represented the group thus far, would register as a lobbyist if required.
Kay McGraw, president of the West Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, said she had heard no reaction to the law from area businessmen. But she added that she thought the proposal would be beneficial.
"I think if someone is paid to lobby, we ought to know about it," she said.
Viterbi said the law is the first of several campaign reform measures that he hopes to propose. "We're fortunate that we're a brand new city and we can start off on the right foot on campaign reform," he said, alluding to long-term efforts to reform political campaign laws in the Legislature and Los Angeles City Council.
Among other measures Viterbi plans to propose later this year are limits on gifts and favors that council members can receive from lobbyists and special-interest groups and a lid on the amount of campaign contributions to council candidates' political campaigns.
The 40 candidates who ran in last November's council campaign--the first in West Hollywood--spent more than $400,000. Many of the candidates--including the five who were elected--were left with significant campaign debts they are still trying to pay back.
"It would be nice if candidates didn't have to build war chests to have a chance in the next election," Viterbi said.