Soon, lobbyists must register

Posted: September 22, 2011

A NEW LAW requiring lobbyists to register with the city could soon be in place now that the Board of Ethics has signed off on a set of enforcement policies.

After months of revisions, the board yesterday approved regulations that detail what constitutes lobbying activity and how lobbyists must register and report their expenditures.

"The public for the first time will have information about paid efforts to influence policy decisions in the city, both administrative actions and legislative actions," said Shane Creamer, executive director of the Ethics Board.

If the measure is approved by the Law Department, it could go into effect in early October, though a board decision to provide a 30-day grace period means that no one would be required to register until November.

And registration could start only when the board has an online registration system in place. Creamer said he hoped that would be ready by November.

The regulations require firms and individuals engaged in lobbying to register with the Board of Ethics, pay a registration fee and file quarterly reports on their expenses. A certain amount of lobbying work must be done each quarter to meet the requirements.

Earlier this summer, the Philadelphia Bar Association and others raised concerns that the preliminary rules were too vague and could require those doing standard city business - such as seeking a zoning permit for a client - to register as lobbyists. The new version more clearly spells out the work that would not qualify as lobbying.

Bar Association Chancellor Rudolph Garcia yesterday said he needed more time to see if the association would endorse the rules.

"I can tell you that the ethics board has been very cooperative. We met with their staff several times. I do see a lot of our suggestions," Garcia said. "We need time to review."

Ethics Board Chairman Richard Glazer again complained yesterday that the board lacked the funding to enforce the lobbying law and watch-dog public officials.

Mayoral spokesman Mark McDonald said the administration is committed to working with the board, though he stressed that these are difficult fiscal times.

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