Lobbyists who do business with the county government can now register online with County Clerk Beverly Kaufman.
The operative word there is "can."
Registration began yesterday afternoon, and so far the number of registered lobbyists is...zero. At least as far as we can tell by searching the website.
Hector DeLeon, a spokesman for Kaufman's office, tells Hair Balls he's not aware of anyone registering. That's because the process is entirely voluntary.
Kaufman's office doesn't make the rules; they simply follow state and county directives. And so far that has meant that a lobbyist can register, and if they'd rather not there isn't a lot that can be done about it.
DeLeon holds out some hope: "People always want to be perceived as acting within the spirit of the law, so maybe they'll sign up because of that," he says.
And then -- why, the power of peer pressure will all but force anyone lobbying county commissioners to put their financial info online!!
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Until the county gets authority from the state to mandate registration, not much will change.
Who's a lobbyist, by the way? Here's the Harris County definition:
For the purpose of Harris County's voluntary registration policy, the County Attorney's Office has defined a lobbyist to be "any person who receives or who is entitled to receive from another person or entity, under an agreement by which the person is retained or employed (other than a governmental agency), compensation or reimbursement to communicate on behalf of the other person or entity directly with any county official or employee for the purpose of influencing any action or decision by such county official or employee".
They forgot to include the part that says "a lobbyist is someone who doesn't voluntarily register, because he doesn't have to."