Post-Oracle bill would tighten lobbying rules

The Associated Press
Wednesday June 26, 2002

SACRAMENTO — A bill that would force those seeking business from the state to register as lobbyists, more fully disclose their activities and limit the amount they spend entertaining officials, was introduced this week in response to California’s contract with the Oracle Corp. 

“All these consultants that have made a huge impact on our policy have this loophole where they are able to wine and dine legislators without having to report it,” said Assemblyman Dean Florez, D-Shafter. 

Legislative hearings on a state audit critical of the $95 million no-bid contract for database software revealed that Oracle’s lobbyist, Ravi Mehta, had a separate business contract with the company that qualified him for huge bonuses and allowed him to escape lobbying disclosure laws. 

Mehta asked for a $225,000 bonus from the company after the contract was signed. Documents produced by the committee, moreover, showed that Mehta sought reimbursement from Oracle for nearly $10,000 in expenses over the past year — mostly for “meetings” or dinners with state officials about the contract. 

Registered lobbyists are prohibited from receiving bonuses or spending more than $10 per month on a single state official. Companies that employ lobbyists are prohibited from spending more than $300 a year on all lunches, dinners and other gifts intended to influence state officials. 

Florez, who chaired the Joint Legislative Audit Committee that investigated the Oracle deal, said he introduced AB13 to force all those seeking state business to follow the lobbying guidelines. 

The bill allows company employees, such as the Oracle sales staff who sought the state’s business, to receive bonuses. Contractors, including lobbyists, would be barred from receiving bonuses.