Embattled California Gov. Gavin Newsom adopted an expanded lobbying ban for his political consultants at the behest of state regulators, months after he drew criticism for dining with lobbyists at the luxury French Laundry restaurant in violation of his own pandemic restrictions.
Newsom, who faces a recall effort over his handling of the pandemic, banned both paid and unpaid political consultants from lobbying him or members of his administration, according to a memo obtained by the Sacramento Bee. Under previous guidelines adopted last December, only paid consultants were banned from lobbying.
Top aides to Newsom announced the policy change in a memo to staffers last week, according to the report. The decision followed recommendations from California’s Fair Political Practices Commission.
“No consultant, whether paid or not, should be permitted to leverage their relationship with the Governor to unduly benefit a client in connection with legislative or administrative actions,” the Fair Political Practices Commission wrote in its recommendations to the administration.
Newsom faced scrutiny over his ties to lobbyists after reports emerged that he attended a birthday dinner for lobbyist Jason Kinney, a longtime unpaid adviser to the governor, at the French Laundry restaurant last November. Janus Norman, a top lobbying for the California Medical Association, was also in attendance.
Photographs showed Newsom and other diners violating several California guidelines at the dinner, including bans on large gatherings and mask requirements. The governor later apologized and described the outing as a “bad mistake.”
Newsom’s administration adopted other measures recommended by the ethics committee, including a ban on receiving gifts from lobbyists and ethics training for staffers.
Organizers of the recall effort against Newsom say they have already amassed more than two million signatures, enough to trigger a vote that could oust the governor from office. Newsom would be just the second governor in state history to face a recall election.