Ethics Commission
City and County of San Francisco

Campaign, Bundling, and Gift Restrictions for Lobbyists Becomes Operative January 1, 2018

Notice of Operative Date for Voter-Approved Proposition T

On November 8, 2016, the voters of the City and County of San Francisco passed Proposition T. That measure amended the City’s Lobbyist Ordinance to: 1) ban lobbyists from making campaign contributions to elective officials and candidates for elective office at agencies the lobbyists are registered to lobby; 2) ban lobbyists from bundling campaign contributions for elective City officials and candidate for those offices; and 3) ban lobbyists from giving City elective officers gifts and from making prohibited gifts through others. As provided in the measure, Proposition T becomes operative on January 1, 2018.

Overview of Enacted Law

The new law has three key provisions, which will:

  1. ban lobbyists from making campaign contributions to elected officials at agencies the lobbyists are registered to lobby and to candidates seeking election to those offices;
  2. ban lobbyists from transmitting to those officials and candidates’ contributions collected from others, a practice commonly known as “bundling;” and
  3. ban lobbyists from giving City officers gifts of any value, including gifts of travel, and prohibit lobbyists from making those payments through others.

Before enactment of Proposition T, a lobbyist could give a maximum of $500 per election to any City elected official or a candidate for City elective office. In addition, lobbyists have been permitted under the law to collect and deliver campaign contributions from other persons—a practice known as “bundling”— to a City official or candidate for City office.

  • The new law prohibits campaign contributions from a lobbyist to any local committee that a City officer or candidate controls, including a controlled ballot measure committee. Also, lobbyists may no longer bundle contributions to those committees. The measure applies to all lobbyists that must register with the Ethics Commission.

Existing law requires local lobbyists to register with the Ethics Commission. Lobbyists must file monthly reports and disclose campaign contributions made or delivered by the lobbyists themselves, their employers or their clients.

  • The new law establishes a new duty for lobbyists to identify the agencies they plan to lobby, and to amend registration information within five days of the changed circumstances (such as a new agency that will be lobbied). If a lobbyist fails to disclose which agencies the lobbyist attempts to influence as required, the lobbyist will be prevented from making any contributions to any City elective officers, candidates or their controlled committees. Such lobbyists will also be prohibited from delivering, transmitting, or delivering or transmitting through a third party, any others’ contributions to City officers or candidates (or their committees). Lobbyists will be subject to these bans for 90 days after their registration to lobby any agency ends.

Under current law, with some exceptions, lobbyists cannot provide any City official with gifts worth more than $25. Under current law, lobbyists cannot deliver payments or gifts through third parties in order to avoid this gift limit.

  • Under the new law, lobbyists are no longer permitted to provide officials with things of value that state law defines as a gift. Gifts of travel – meaning a payment, advance or reimbursement for travel, and including transportation, lodging, and food and refreshment connected with the travel – will also be banned. A limited exception will allow City officers to receive food and beverages worth $25 or less at a public meeting held by a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that has qualified as a lobbyist when those refreshments are equally available to all attendees of the public event. In addition, the law clarifies that a lobbyist may not make or act as an intermediary for any payment to a third party that is earmarked for use in making gifts, including gifts of travel, to an officer of the City and County, or the parent, spouse, domestic partner, or child of an officer of the City and County.

For More Information

The Ethics Commission is working diligently to put processes in place to implement the new provisions of the Lobbyist Ordinance and to help inform those affected by the new law to understand and comply with these requirements. Please feel free to contact the Commission with any questions at (415) 252-3100, or by email at ethics.commission@sfgov.org.

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