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Proposed Rule Closes Lobbying Loophole In California Government

California’s elections watchdog agency says lobbyists are exploiting a loophole in state rules and it’s allowing people to influence legislation and rules without registering as lobbyists.

Under what’s called the “ride-along” exception, lobbyists can take another person with them to meet with elected officials.

Galena West, the Chief Enforcement Officer of the California Fair Political Practices Commission, says the idea was to allow subject matter experts to act as resources during discussions on complicated issues.

"Unfortunately, political operatives have expanded that exception and exploited it as a way to influence legislation behind the scenes," West says. "The easiest way to say you’re not a lobbyist is to say, ‘Well, I accompanied lobbyist Joe Smith and everywhere I went I, I went with Joe Smith.’"

West says lobbyists are instead bringing well-connected people with political motives to open doors for them.

A new proposed rule would narrow the “ride-along” exception. Lobbyists and people accompanying them would have to prove they are subject matter experts in the issue being discussed.

The commission will vote to change the rule next month. It has not received letters in support or opposing the rule change, yet.

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