"The public has a right to know who is trying to influence their elected representatives," says Seattle City Council President Nick Licata. To this end, Licata is in the process of composing legislation that would require all lobbyists, employers of lobbyists, and sponsors of expenditure lobbyists to register and file periodic reports with the Ethics and Elections Commission. But not everyone is sure that Licata's definition of lobbyist goes far enough.
At a brown-bag forum held on Sept. 11 in Council Chambers to gather information on how other governments have tackled the issue of lobbyist registration, Licata hosted Vickie Ripple, executive director of the Washington State Public Disclosure commission, Amy Calderwood, the King County Ombudsman, and Shoshanah Oppenheim, a senior policy analyst from the Office of Portland City Commissioner Sam Adams.
But it was Chris Lehman, a political scientist who works for the Seattle Community Council Federation, who crashed the party. He had harsh words for Licata. "The Washington State government bars unelected officials from using public funds for lobbying. The Seattle city government, due to a glaring hole in legislation, doesn't," Leman said. "If this is not going to be made illegal, it should at least be carefully tracked."
In Licata's draft proposal, however, the definition of lobbying explicitly exempts "communications by city employees acting within the scope of their employment."
But Lehman's suggestion may change all that. According to Newell Aldrich, a spokesperson for Licata's office, an expanded definition of lobbying may find its way into Licata's final proposal. "Licata thinks that it is worth looking at, and wants to discuss it further in meetings," Aldrich says.
According to Aldrich, Licata's proposal is to be formally introduced sometime in the next month.