OC Business Council Exempt From Lobbying Ordinance

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The Board of Supervisors Tuesday takes one more stab at honing its planned lobbyist ordinance, which, as currently written, exempts one of the county’s most prominent industry organizations, the Orange County Business Council.

Yet Business Council President and CEO Lucy Dunn said the law is so difficult to understand that she’s probably going to register as a lobbyist, even if she doesn’t have to.

“I’m so confused, I’m likely to register, even though we’re not a lobbying organization,” said Dunn in a telephone interview. “Whatever the form is, I’ll fill it out and not talk to anyone about anything.”

The Business Council is a nonprofit 501C6, a category specifically exempted by the Board of Supervisors from having to register as a lobbyist unless it seeks county grants or contracts.

On the agenda Tuesday is another exemption, this one for 501C3 nonprofits, which generally include charitable and religious organizations, and scientific, literary, and amateur athletic groups as well as private foundations.

Board members in general have said they were trying to exempt charitable and other groups that don’t lobby in the traditional sense of those paid by private companies to convince lawmakers to back projects that benefit the companies.

California has had a state paid lobbyist registration law for about 40 years and most other large counties have had them for decades. The state ordinance does not exempt 501C6 or 501C3 organizations.

Bob Stern, president of the Center for Governmental Studies, questions why such organizations would be exempted by the county law.

“The political reform act didn’t exempt either (501C3s or 501C6s),” he said. “Why would you want to exempt even the Red Cross?”

The Orange County Business Council represents more than 200 of the best known companies in the county, including the Irvine Company, Disneyland Resort, Curt Pringle & Associates, AT&T, Lennar Homes, the Orange County Register, Chevron, Bank of America and Scott Baugh and Assocs. There also are 14 cities on its membership list, including the largest, Anaheim and Santa Ana.

The association brings in about $2.3 million a year, mostly from membership fees and other assessments, according to its 2009 tax return, the latest available online.

“We do not lobby,” said Dunn. “Be sure that’s in your notes. We never lobby the supervisors for OCBC stuff.”

But, she added, “the way this ordinance is written, it’s just so weird …”

The supervisors, prodded by the Orange County Employees Association and former state Sen. Joe Dunn as well as the county grand jury has been wrestling with the issue for months.

Under the proposed ordinance, anyone paid $500 a month or more to lobby the supervisors or county agencies would have to register. Lobbyists would pay a $75 fee the first year, and then $50 annually thereafter.

Employers, the law reads, “shall include, but not be limited to, any corporation, partnership, limited liability company, labor organization, labor union, or any other business entity.”



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