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Council President González’s “Indirect Lobbying” Bill Passes, Strengthening Transparency at City Hall

Council President M. Lorena González (Position 9, Citywide), Chair of the Governance and Education Committee, alongside her Council colleagues passed a lobbying bill requiring additional transparency and disclosures by paid lobbyists and indirect lobbying campaigns. 

Council Bill (C.B.) 119968 is intended to provide additional transparency regarding relationships between elected officials and lobbyists, and between proposed legislation and indirect lobbying campaigns. 

“Indirect lobbying happens unfettered without knowing who is responsible for organizing a campaign, how much was spent, and who paid the bill. With this legislation, we have the opportunity to align our city’s lobbying rules with better practices, including those currently spelled out at the state level and other big cities nationwide,” González said.

Currently, lobbyists who directly lobby elected officials or members of the Mayor’s staff to change or influence legislation need to register with the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission and submit quarterly reports. 

This new legislation adds the concept of indirect lobbying to the City’s lobbying regulations, which has been part of Washington state law since 1973. Indirect lobbying requirements will now, as an example, apply to lobbyists, those who hire them, or organizations that take out ads to influence members of the public, and encourage members of the public to lobby their elected officials on legislation.   

The Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission (SEEC) recommended the new indirect lobbying regulations that apply to lobbyists that spend at least $750 in a month or $1,500 in three months to carry out a campaign. The legislation would allow for civil penalties for failing to comply but SEEC intends to spend the first six months of 2020 to complete rulemaking and community education that will encourage awareness of the new lobbying regulations and compliance. 

“This legislation brings Seattle’s lobbying law more in alignment with state lobbying law and the laws on the books in our peer cities across the country.  It builds on the solid foundation laid when the lobbying law was first enacted 10 years ago, adding additional transparency to assist residents” said SEEC Executive Director Wayne Barnett.

Additionally, Council Bill 119968 applies lobbying regulations to communication with directors of City departments, and their deputies or direct reports, and requires disclosure of compensated services by lobbyists to political campaigns for elected officials or ballot measures. For more information on the legislation, view the Council’s Central Staff memo

The passage of the indirect lobbying bill follows the successful passage of the González-sponsored Clean Campaigns Act, passed by Council on Jan. 13, 2020.

The Clean Campaigns Act prohibits foreign-influenced corporations from contributing money to Seattle candidates and from spending independently on candidate elections, though such companies could still spend on ballot-measure campaigns. The legislation also increased transparency in Seattle elections with new reporting requirements for commercial advertisers for advertising that appeals for votes or financial support of a political campaign.

The indirect lobbying bill builds on the Clean Campaigns Act, and affirms González’s commitment to not just transparent elections, but a transparent legislative process at Seattle City Hall. 

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