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Lobbying ... for just pennies a day!

December 28, 2011 | 11:43 am

Leland-YeeFirst question: how do you feel about lobbyists?

[You can think expletives but not write them.]

Now, second question. How about doubling the fees California lobbyists have to pay to register as lobbyists?

[Okay, okay, not so loud.]

So, all in favor of Senator Leland Yee’s bill that would double those fees …

[Wild cheering erupts.]

Congratulations, Californians. If you were casting the votes, lobbyists would now have to pay 14 cents a day. Fourteen cents.

It’ll be up to the Legislature to double the fees from seven cents to 14. And there’s no guarantee that the measure, set to be introduced next year, will pass.

The San Jose Mercury News says California is laggardly in its lobbying fees. States like Alaska and Alabama charge $100 a year, Illinois lobbyists pay $300 and in Massachusetts it’s $1,000.

In California, until just last year, it was costing lobbying groups less than a nickel a day in fees to the state of California -- $12.50 a year. A buck and a few cents a month. They probably drop that much in pennies on the Capitol Park sidewalk over a year’s time.

Then, through the Secretary of State’s office, the fee "doubled" –- a useful word in the language of politics, which is to say, it went up [for the first time since the Watergate year 1974] to a staggering $25 a year.

This isn’t symbolic chump change; it’s real chump change. The money would support Cal-Access, a website that allows anyone to "follow the money" with a mouse click, tracking the dough that comes into politics and where it goes.

The website, officially called the California Automated Lobbying and Campaign Contribution and Expenditure Search System, was constructed in the techno-Dark Ages of 1999, and it can hardly be described as state of the art.

Now it has been on the fritz since around Thanksgiving, making it harder to track those figurative greenbacks.

The bill by Yee, a Bay Area Democrat, would put the money raised by the new ‘’doubled’’ fees, all $50,000 of it, toward getting Cal-Access up and running again. It's something, but it's a disgrace that this public service site isn't already funded in the public interest.

What are the odds of this passing -- this, or an even more solid way of funding Cal-Access? Would lobbyists really have the brass ones to reinforce their already unsavory image by defeating a bill over $25 a year?

 Maybe … but I suspect there may be a few elected officials sitting in the red-ink-crimson state Senate and in the House-of-Commons-green state Assembly chambers who secretly wouldn’t be altogether unhappy if the public had that much harder a time finding out where all that campaign money is coming from, and where it’s going…


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Photo: Leland Yee. Credit: Ben Margot / AP Photo

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