Loophole in California Revolving Door Law

(Click here to listen to the audio version of this post)

As highlighted on the KPBS article and  Capitol Public Radio piece (audio), California’s revolving door laws continue to suffer from significant loopholes that allow former officials and staff to begin working in the influence industry without skipping a beat.

Here’s some context: special interests and lobbying firms have increasingly sought out former officials and have been willing to pay large sums of money for the institutional knowledge and connections that come along with that official. Whether someone is a former legislator, agency secretary, or board chair, their knowledge and connections are worth a premium to select industries. There have also been instances where an official may support or author a piece of legislation or regulation that is favorable to industry in order to secure employment with an outside interest.

To fight back against this corruption, reformers like Common Cause have supported strong revolving door laws, also called “cooling down periods”. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, most states have implemented cool down periods for public officials. These laws ban officials and legislators from lobbying their former agency for a certain time frame.

In California, our law prohibits only lobbying on any administrative or legislative matters, for compensation, for one year. What we consistently see are former officials who receive compensation for consulting, advising, or serving as historians or strategists; serving at times as directors of lobbyists and lobbying strategy.

Making direct contact to influence (asking for a yea or nay) is prohibited. But managing a team of lobbyists (who then ask for a yea or nay) and setting up meetings or fundraisers is not prohibited and currently legal.

Unfortunately, these loopholes won’t be closed any time soon. The Legislature is in no mood to shutdown future job opportunities for their members.

California Common Cause is not giving up on this matter. We’ll continue to expose violators and push for strict enforcement of the laws. Our lobbying reform package also includes cleaning up these loopholes.

 

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About Phillip Ung

Phillip Ung is California Common Cause’s policy advocate. Follow him on Twitter @PhilRUng.

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