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Post Uber, Portland Leaders Look To Strengthen Lobbying Rules

People can summon drivers from ride services like Uber through smartphone apps.

People can summon drivers from ride services like Uber through smartphone apps.

Christina Belasco/OPB

Portland city auditor Mary Hull Caballero and Commissioner Nick Fish are proposing an overhaul of the regulations for people who lobby city hall.

An ordinance they will introduce Wednesday would ban elected officials from lobbying the city and bureau directors from lobbying their bureaus for two years after they leave office. It would impose a one-year lobbying ban on other city employees.

The proposed ordinance is a compromise. Mayor Charlie Hales, Commissioner Dan Saltzman and Commissioner Amanda Fritz all expressed reservations about a more restrictive version of the ordinance Hull Caballero proposed in April.

“What we’re trying to accomplish with the changes is to focus the regulations on the level of city employee most likely to have insider knowledge and most attractive to a private sector entity to be able to tap into that,” said Hull Caballero.

City code passed in 2005 restricts elected officials and their staff from working as paid lobbyists after they leave office but only on issues they were personally and substantially involved.

Hull Caballero argues that language creates ambiguity that makes it difficult for her office to determine if the law’s been broken.

“You could be a chief of staff for an elected official, probably involved in a lot of meetings on a lot of topics, and you could say, ‘Well, I could lobby on that because I wasn’t personally and substantially involved,’” she said.

The auditor also wants to raise the fine for violating the city’s lobbying rules to $3,000. It’s currently $500 for a violation. Seattle and San Francisco impose $5,000 fines for violations of their city’s lobbying rules.

Hull Caballero said the changes were motivated in part by Uber’s failure to report that it had hired political consultant Mark Weiner to lobby Mayor Charlie Hales and Commissioner Steve Novick as the city reconsidered its regulation of private-for-hire cars and taxis.

“It seemed a little unsatisfying to be only able to fine them $500 per violation when their violations were pretty egregious,” Hull Caballero said.

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