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Conflict Of Interest? Councilmember Registered As Company Lobbyist

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SACRAMENTO (CBS13) – Only CBS13 has learned a Sacramento councilmember registered as a paid lobbyist for a nationwide corporation, after voting in favor of a local contract.

It may look bad, but it’s legal.

The message is sparklingly clear on giant new city of Sacramento digital billboards. What’s become cloudy is the politics that got them there.

CBS13 has learned that within weeks of the council’s unanimous vote to approve its contract with Clear Channel, Councilmember Rob Fong became a paid Clear Channel lobbyist.

The vote was May 11, 2010; Fong registered July 1, 2010, as a lobbyist with the secretary of state.

It’s a timeframe proving questionable to government watchdog Common Cause.

“To the general public, I think it would have the appearance of wrongdoing. But, in this case, you’d have to look into the correspondence. When did that correspondence and negotiation take place? When did it begin? We know sometimes it takes months to develop a lobbying contract,” said Phillip Ung, policy advocate with Common Cause.

Fong refused an on camera interview for this story, but told CBS13’s Steve Large off camera that he has done nothing wrong.

Public documents show, while continuing to serve on the city council, Fong has earned in excess of $100,000 a year as a lobbyist, and that he has made at least $10,000 a year from his work for Clear Channel.

A review by the city attorney’s office and Fair Political Practices Commission revealed no violations by Fong.

Fong has recused himself from council discussions on Clear Channel since becoming their lobbyist, and has announced he will not seek re-election.

Sacramento’s conflict of interest code states no full-time employee can have another job funded in any way from a city contract, but councilmembers are part-time employees.

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