Los Angeles City Ethics Commission Makes the Right Move on Nonprofits
Washington, D.C., December 20, 2017 – Following the announcement this week by the Los Angeles City Ethics Commission that certain nonprofits will not be forced to register as lobbyists under a proposed expansion of city lobbying rules, AFJ ‘s Bolder Advocacy program Director for California, Nona Randois, released the following statement:
“This is great news for smaller charities and for charities that are directly engaged in helping the city’s neediest residents. While more transparency in lobbying is an important goal, it’s equally important that well-intentioned measures aimed at achieving that goal don’t crush the efforts of small nonprofits providing vital services to their communities. Many of those organizations would face enormous obstacles in continuing their work if they were hit with onerous new rules. Bolder Advocacy has worked with a coalition of Los Angeles nonprofits to make the case for exempting certain nonprofits from having to classify themselves as lobbyists, and we hope to see this exemption carried forward in any final version of the rules approved by the City Council.”
As part of a proposed package of lobbying reforms, the Ethics Commission voted to exclude nonprofits with budgets under $2 million, as well as nonprofits that are formed for the purpose of providing food, shelter, and similar services to low-income populations, from having to register as lobbyists and comply with extensive reporting requirements. These organizations will be included as part of the exemption carved out for 501(c)(3) organizations in proposed revisions to the Los Angeles Municipal Lobbying Ordinance.
In a letter to the Ethics Commission, Bolder Advocacy’s Nona Randois and Shyaam Subramanian used the following illustration to explain why key services could be impacted by imposing extensive new requirements on many nonprofits:
“For example, a community-based organization that assists homeless residents may decide not to produce a report outlining the need for more public toilets on Skid Row if it is unsure whether the cost of the report is a lobbying expense, since preparing the report could force the organization to file regular lobbying reports subject to potential civil and criminal penalties for mistakes or late filing. This robs the City of vital input and expertise which otherwise would help the City make decisions that are fair and equitable at a time when so many traditionally disadvantaged groups are being targeted.”
Bolder Advocacy believes that the solution proposed by the Ethics Commission strikes the right balance. The proposal as it is now written avoids a deterrent effect on community-based organizations that advocate on behalf of underrepresented people, but also helps ensure ensuring meaningful disclosure of lobbying activities to the public.