On Wednesday morning, City Auditor Mary Hull Caballero upheld her assessment of 25 lobbying violations committed by the Portland Business Alliance in April.
The chamber of commerce had argued that most of the violations weren’t really lobbying efforts. The auditor was not convinced.
“Caballero reconsidered evidence of lobbying violations at the request of the Portland Business Alliance and today affirmed a $450 penalty assessed against the organization in April. The alliance is a registered lobbying entity with the city and is required to report meetings, letters, emails, text messages, and phone calls with city officials when they involve attempts to influence their actions,” a statement says. “The original decision issued by the Auditor’s Office, which administers and enforces the city’s lobbyist registration and reporting requirements, determined the alliance committed 25 violations in 2020 for not reporting contacts with city officials that met the definition of lobbying.”
PBA said in a statement to WW that it is “not surprised” by the decision. It argued that the standard upheld by the auditor is so strict that every entity lobbying city officials will need new training.
“Today’s decision clearly establishes new definitions and purpose of lobbying that is not consistent with a plain reading of city code and is being applied to the Portland Business Alliance alone. We expect that the auditor will take steps to transparently, and equally, apply these expanded interpretations to all reporting entities, including inquiries with organizations who have failed to file quarterly reports entirely,” PBA said. “We are encouraged that the auditor will be making training widely available because every advocacy organization will need to rapidly adjust the way their teams disclose communications, respond to requests from city officials, and consider whether having city officials serving on their boards or having staff participate in task forces, when invited and requested by city officials to do so, exposes them to penalties.”
Mary Hull Caballero released her report April 29 detailing the violations, most of which were undocumented communications between the mayor’s office and the business group. (It represents 1,900 business members, which include WW’s parent company.) The alliance fought back against those violations May 10, arguing that 23 of the 25 alleged violations were not, in fact, in violation of city lobbying rules.
The alliance has 60 days to appeal Caballero’s decision in Multnomah County Circuit Court.