Bolder Advocacy Weighs in on Local Advocacy Rules in San Francisco and Los Angeles


Nona Randois

The San Francisco Ethics Commission recently proposed to ban “behested payments” – when someone donates to charity at the request of a public official. Behested payments are often subject to reporting by requesting public officials to ensure that any potential abuse of such situations is detectable by the public, but AFJ and other nonprofits operating in San Francisco raised concerns that the proposed ban on such payments would have created liability for nonprofits receiving funds and had the unintended consequence of making it harder for nonprofits to raise funds to provide services to supplement shrinking budgets at all levels of government.

As detailed in this SF Chronicle article, the SF Ethics Commission’s proposed behested payments ban stalled earlier this week, failing to receive the 4/5 vote needed to move to the Board of Supervisors. Advocacy by the nonprofit community was effective in swaying Commissioners Daina Chiu and Yvonne Lee, who both spoke forcefully and eloquently on behalf of nonprofits’ concerns.

In Los Angeles, on October 17th, the City Ethics Commission will consider proposed changes to the Los Angeles Municipal Lobbying Ordinance. Southern California Bolder Advocacy attorneys have been leading a coalition of nonprofits providing input on proposed changes to the ordinance, which requires organizations that attempt to influence City decisions to register and/or report their activities if they meet certain thresholds. Some 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations are currently exempt from having to register and report, but among other proposals, the Commission is considering changes to the 501(c)(3) exemption, including whether to recommend broadening the 501(c)(3) exemption and clarifying which 501(c)(3)s are exempt.

There is also a proposal to add a provision that would allow private individuals to sue people who fail to register and report properly, which could open up small nonprofits with controversial or unpopular ideas to harassment through expensive or even frivolous lawsuits by moneyed interests.

For more information on the LA Municipal Lobbying Ordinance, please contact Shyaam Subramanian at or 213-225-6843.