Saturday, June 06, 2015

Scattershooting Eddie Lucio and Houston lobbyists

-- Have I said 'Screw Eddie Lucio" this week yet?  South Texas Chisme has your "'Democratic' senator lauds Patrick" post.  There has GOT to be a real Democrat in that district to replace this guy (and I'm not referring to Eddie Lucio III, necessarily).

-- This from a week ago almost got past me in a very busy week.

Four years after Mayor Annise Parker's administration tightened Houston's lobbying rules and pledged to enforce them, not a single person or firm has been cited despite records showing that many lobbyists have failed to abide by the regulations.

A Houston Chronicle review of city records and interviews show that dozens of lobbyists do not properly record the clients they represent, do not keep their registrations up to date or do not report spending any money to influence city leaders.

In addition to registering their employers, lobbyists must disclose the spending they do to lobby city officials. Of the 142 lobbyists with active files in the City Secretary's office, only 24 reported spending money on lobbying, and only 10 reported making more than three expenditures. Many activity reports also were filed late.

Lobbyists must update their registrations annually, but dozens fail to do so, leading to lapses ranging from a few days to several months. Some fought issues before the City Council, met with city officials or took council members to luncheons or Astros games during those lapses.

Most of these people identified in the article are Democrats.  A couple are former council members of council.  They're identified by name in the article.  Frankly I'm embarrassed that people I know and like seem to be out to lunch (pun not intended) about properly disclosing their business.  The bottom line is: if you play the game, you need to play by the rules.  If you don't know the rules, you need to learn them.

Even the new city attorney prevaricated  on the matter.

City Attorney Donna Edmundson said her office does not have the resources to do proactive enforcement. Edmundson acknowledged some lobbyists complain about competitors, but said she has never received a written complaint that would spur her to investigate.

"The criminal standard is 'intentionally or knowingly violates.' The bottom line is, it's just a Class C misdemeanor," Edmundson said, noting the $500 fine such a violation would carry. "If someone files a written complaint, that's fine. I don't know of anyone in the city that would sit here and look at the City Secretary's list."

Well, that's going to change.  Especially when the city attorney telephones a lobbyist after receiving complaints to encourage that person to get into compliance.  The former city attorney seems to have a different POV about being 'proactive'.

Many lobbyists who report no activity say they deliberately avoid spending money on lobbying or avoid topping $25 per purchase, the threshold above which expenses must be disclosed, in part because they want to avoid the hassle of filling out reports.

"Are these people really saying they don't ever spend in excess of $25? That's just not believable," (David) Feldman said. "If this ordinance is being interpreted and applied in such a way that they're not having to really disclose their activities, then there needs to be another look at this ordinance."

Yet another reason we can't have a nice democracy.  Greg Abbott and the Texas Legislature have already set a bad enough example for the sham of talking about ethics reform and doing nothing about it; let's hold our city's leaders and those who exert influence on them to a higher standard of accountability.

This would seem to be an opportunity tailor-made for a mayoral candidate to capitalize on, especially if a mayoral candidate has served previously on council -- like Chris Bell, Adrian Garcia, and/or Stephen Costello.  I hope somebody will be asking them about it at this morning's third mayoral forum (which I will again be forced to miss).

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