Philadelphia to finally get lobbying regulations

It appears Philadelphia will finally get rules requiring lobbyists to disclose who their clients are and what they spend to influence governmen in the city.

The city Board of Ethics Wednesday approved regulations implementing the lobbying law passed last year by City Council. But the panel and it staff spent months modifying the rules, partly in response to objections from lawyers and some citizen groups.

Under the new rules, lobbyists in Philadelphia will have to register with the ethics board within 10 days of engaging in any lobbying activity, then file quarterly reports disclosing their clients, their spending, and any gifts, hospitality, and transportation costs they’ve paid for those they’re trying to influence.

CORRECTION: Under the law and regs, it’s not the lobbyists that file quarterly reports, but clients who hire them (as well as interests that lobby on their own behalf). The reports must detail the lobbyists’ spending on communications and gifts. Both lobbyists and their clients must register, so the public knows who is representing whom.

The modified regulations make it clear the requirements don’t apply to lawyers or accountants representing clients in the course of ordinary business with government. And Ethics Board executive director Shane Creamer said the law won’t affect citizens doing routine business with or making a complaint to the city”(It won’t cover) the stuff that happens day to day – standing in line at L&I, things like that,” Creamer said after the board adopted the rules. “If you have a tax issue, if you have a zoning issue, those kinds of things are not captured by the law.”The regulations are subject to review by the city law department. With their okay, lobbyists will have to start registering in early November.

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