San Francisco Lobbyists' Failure to Report Their Activities — For Years — Was No Secret

The San Francisco Examiner this week reported that while the lobbyists San Francisco employs to push for the city's interests in Sacramento and elsewhere are required to file quarterly reports detailing how they're spending nearly half a million dollars of public money, they have, in fact, only filed one report since 2005.

Too bad no one's being paid to lobby for accountability!

This serves as yet another opportunity to reference Casablanca, in which Captain Renault was “shocked, shocked” that there was gambling in a casino. Lobbyists who'd failed to file a report since '05 were — wait for it — shocked that they actually had to publicly disclose what they did with public money. John St. Croix, the executive director of San Francisco's Ethics Commission, offered a mea culpa: “We all dropped the ball on this. It's my fault we didn't go after it. I don't think there was an attempt to hide anything.” 

It's nice to hear someone actually take responsibility — so nice, in fact, that the media and others often act as if it ameliorates the situation that the apologist should have handled in the first place. Because this was not a case of “dropping the ball.” It was a situation in which the Ethics Commission knew where the ball was, and made no effort to catch it. Complaints of lobbyists flouting city laws and Ethics doing little to nothing about it had been made for years before the Examiner story. 

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