As City Council Considers New Lobbying Rules, We Learn Carol Reed Banked $65,000 From Mayor's Back to School Fair

In this week's paper version of Unfair Park, Schutze uses two of Mayor Tom Leppert's top political consultants -- Carol Reed and Mari Woodlief -- to explain why the mayor is hardly the "Angel of Ethics" despite the new lobbying rules presented (per some council members' requests, behind closed doors) to the city council this afternoon. The proposed rules require lobbyists earning more than $200 quarterly to register with the city and file quarterly reports revealing the names of their clients, how much they were paid and the issues they pushed. Registration would cost $300, and violations would be punishable by "a criminal fine not to exceed $500."

Restrictions to campaign contributions related to the timing of zoning cases and a requirement that motions in zoning cases be seconded by three council members are also under consideration. And, by seconding the motion, "the city council member represents that he or she has reviewed the facts of the zoning case, and has developed an opinion on the appropriateness of the zoning."

If passed by the council, the reports filed by folks like Reed would prove to be a fascinating read, if only to get a taste of what she's getting on top of everything else she earns from Leppert-related activities. Speaking of, it sure pays to be close to the mayor these days as we've learned that Reed pulled in $65,000 from the Dallas Foundation to plan the 13th annual Mayor's Back to School Fair.

Find out what Reed did for that much dough after the jump, along with the city's definition of lobbying and exceptions to the registration rule.

Update (Thursday at 11:42 a.m.): Blackmon e-mailed us an answer to sanguine's question in the comments below, per our request: "Because it is now a private entity, there was no requirement for RFPs. We went with the organization we believed would do the best job."

We're awaiting a call back from Frank Librio in the city's public information office for specifics on how the Mayor's Back to School Fair has been handled in the past, and we also got an e-mail from Paula Blackmon, the mayor's deputy chief of staff, regarding Reed's involvement this year.

Over a ten-month period, they handled the planning, budgeting, fundraising, publicizing, pre-registering students, and many other details that are part of producing the event. We saw an increase in the overall event, and thanks to the Reeds professional management organization, they managed that growth beyond our expectations:
  • Over a 30% increase attendance -- from 45,000 to 60,000 individuals coming to the fair;
  • Almost 14,000 school packs given to qualified students at the fair; about 1,000 were taken to DISD schools for distribution to students who arrived at schools without supplies
  • An increase in actual dollars raised as well as in-kind donations and giveaways-close to half a million dollars;
  • Managed and trained over 500 volunteers;
  • More pre-registered students this year than years past;
  • More community partners than in years past;
  • Increase in press coverage

Of course, Reed's involvement in the fair is not lobbying. Which begs the question, what is lobbying? Here's the city's proposed definition:

lobby - an oral or written communication, with enumerated exceptions (including an electronic communication) to a city official made directly or indirectly by any person in an effort to influence or persuade an official to favor or oppose, recommend or not recommend, vote for or against, or take or refrain from taking action on a municipal question.

And finally, we know there's always an exception to every rule, so here are those related to the lobbying registration. (Glad to know we're in the clear.)

  • media outlets.
  • person whose only lobbying activity is to encourage or solicit the members, employees or owners of an entity by whom the person is compensated to communicate with city officials to influence municipal questions.
  • a governmental entity whose communications relate solely to subjects of governmental interest.
  • a person who neither knows nor has reason to know that a municipal question is pending at the time of contact with the city official.
  • an attorney or other person whose contact is made solely to resolve a dispute with the city, provided the city official does not vote or have final authority over the municipal question involved.
  • a client who would be required to register only because of an expenditure to compensate a registrant.
  • an individual who engages in lobbying, but who neither receives compensation nor expends monies for lobbying.