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City to Require Disclosure of Lobbyists' Fund-Raising

Council members reject a related recusal requirement.

August 09, 2003|Jessica Garrison | Times Staff Writer

The Los Angeles City Council voted Friday to approve new ethics laws that would require lobbyists to publicly disclose when they raise more than $15,000 for a council member or $35,000 for an official elected to citywide office.

But council members killed a part of the reform package that would have required them to recuse themselves from voting on issues that involved lobbyists who had raised large sums of money for their campaigns.

Though the plan was approved in concept seven months ago, a majority of the council said Friday that it would be difficult and time-consuming to determine who should be disqualified from a vote. They also said it would disenfranchise constituents by keeping officials from voting on important issues.

"We are either spending time" complying with the proposed ethics regulations, said council President Alex Padilla, "or addressing public safety, deliberating policy, attending to our district's concerns."

Council members Eric Garcetti and Wendy Greuel disagreed, but were overruled. Instead, the council voted to create stricter financial disclosure requirements for lobbyists and elected officials.

For the first time, lobbyists will have to disclose when they reach the $15,000 fund-raising threshold for council members and $35,000 for a citywide office, such as the mayor or city attorney. In turn, elected officials will have to make a public disclosure if they act on a matter after being lobbied by a contributor.

LeeAnn Pelham, executive director of the Ethics Commission, said it was "unfortunate" that the council had voted down the recusal item.

"While a disclosure requirement for elected officials sounds good in theory, it remains to be seen whether this approach will have a meaningful effect in practice," she said in a statement.

The new plan could go into effect by January.

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