The public has a right to know

Submitted to voters by unanimous vote of the San Francisco Ethics Commission, Proposition C rectifies a puzzling abolition of disclosure requirements for one type of paid lobbyist who try to influence city government decisions. In establishing the Ethics Commission by a charter amendment, voters wisely provided that such commission can submit a ballot measure directly to voters for approval without Board of Supervisors consent.

Prop. C restores public disclosure of lobbyist expenditures which existed until removal by the Board of Supervisors in 2010!
“Expenditure lobbyists” and “direct contact” lobbyists both attempt to influence City Hall decisions. “Expenditure lobbyists,” however, don’t lobby supervisors or city commission members directly. They do it indirectly by paying others for online petitions, Internet lobbying, identifying and inducing specific audiences to apply pressure at City Hall for favorable decisions, gathering people to speak at City Hall hearings, political rallies and demonstrations, transporting such people to speak at hearings and mass rallies and initiating paid advertising to persuade the public to contact elected and appointed officials.

The public should know about the source of expenditures of these calculated and sly efforts to persuade public officials to render desired decisions, just like they do as to lobbyists who meet directly with supervisors and commissioners. Prop. C was promulgated after Ethics Commission public hearings with supporting testimony from former civil grand jury members and a specific San Francisco grand jury request that the loophole created in 2010 by the Board of Supervisors be closed.

Don’t be fooled by claims that SPUR, various “affordable” housing organizations, unions and similar beneficiaries of city government spending oppose Prop. C. They still won’t need to disclose expenditures of less than $2,500 per month while engaging in lobbying and spending money on decisions that involve millions of taxpayer dollars, such as contracts, development permits, zoning variances and city franchises. We have the right to know of their expenditures. That’s the reason the San Francisco Taxpayers Association and so many other San Franciscans urge a “yes” vote on Proposition C.

Judge Quentin L. Kopp (Ret.) is a former Board of Supervisors member, state Senator, and Superior Court Judge, now president of the San Francisco Taxpayers Association.

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