Mayor Emanuel Suggests Changing Ethics Board’s Definition Of Lobbyist

CHICAGO (CBS) — Mayor Rahm Emanuel has said the city’s more aggressive Board of Ethics has wrongly characterized some average citizens as lobbyists.

The mayor suggested the board was wrong to accuse the husband of Ald. Sophia King (4th) of being an unregistered lobbyist for contacting Emanuel via private email for help brokering a solution after construction near Jackson Park threatened a picnic he and other house music DJs planned to hold in 2015.

“If you are trying to do house party music, and there’s a fence in the way, and you’re trying to make sure that you can do and host and hold an event, I think we should be clear that doesn’t mean that a citizen is a lobbyist,” he said.

Emanuel said the ethics board is confusing the issue.

“A lobbyist, very specifically, gets paid a financial reward for representing an interest – a particular interest – in speaking to government agencies. Individuals who are citizens, and speak to their elected officials, are citizens,” he said.

The mayor said even his daughter made a joke about the board’s broad definition of lobbyist.

“The other night, we were at our family dinner at the kitchen table. Amy was saying something to me, and Ilana says ‘You better not, mom. You’re going to have to register as a lobbyist,’” he said.

Emanuel said there needs to be clarity that acknowledges individual citizens have the right to contact elected officials without being required to register as a lobbyist.

Chicago Inspector General Joseph Ferguson this week told aldermen the ethics board’s definition of a lobbyist is the broadest in the nation. He agreed with the mayor the current definition is too broad.

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