Lobbying, Portland style

Soapbox • New regulations will lead to more transparency

Portlanders want and deserve to see how special-interest groups seek to influence city government.

Last December, the Portland City Council took a crucial step toward improving transparency in government decision-making by requiring these groups to register their existence and to disclose their lobbying efforts.

On April 1, we started a six-month trial period that will allow us to fine-tune Portland's lobbyist registration and reporting requirements. Based on the results of the six-month trial period, I will recommend a set of polished requirements for the lobbying ordinance to the City Council in October.

It took two years of work to get us here, with lots of twists and turns.

During these years, I have become even more passionate about the need for a city government lobbying regulation. The lobbying requirements for Portland will help avoid abuses we see throughout the country.

For instance, the federal government, belatedly spurred into action by investigations into former lobbyist Jack Abramoff's ties to legislators, passed an ethics bill that attempts to tighten federal lobby rules. An Oregon Law Commission work group on government ethics is studying how to improve ethics rules and lobbying disclosure requirements at the state level.

Many cities across the nation now are trying to make their lobbying rules more effective. Why? Because citizens want more than window-dressing proposals that sound good in the papers but provide little transparency.

Our lobbyist regulations go beyond the often ineffective regulations of other jurisdictions whose requirements focus solely on money Ñ who bought whom dinner, drinks, trips or gifts.

With Portland's lobbying regulations, you will not only be able to follow the special-interest money; you will know which special-interest group is lobbying on which issue, whom they are lobbying (this includes city bureau managers as well as the Portland Development Commission) and when.

Portland is at a starting point for making city government more transparent. The public finally will be provided with the information they need to hold decision-makers accountable for how they deal with special-interest groups.

Sam Adams is a city commissioner.