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Travels policy must require full disclosure of trips paid for by third parties

From: domainremoved <George>
Date: Tue, 12 Feb 2019 08:51:03 -0500

Jan and I are traveling in South America, paid for by ourselves, with limited communication resources. The proposed new travel policy misses the main area of concern. That is Foreign countries and interests appropriating good will and publicity for themselves at expense of Menlo Park, by reimbursing travel expenses to their countries, including publicity event, photo opportunities,express and implied affiliations with their VIP’s, all designed to promote foreign countries connection to, and affiliation with, Silicon Valley technological, and economic success. China’s use of this tool has been described recently in New York Times.

This foreign exploitation opportunity exists because of loopholes in FPPC statutes allowing gifts of travel expenses by foreign countries to elected officials to be omitted from calculation of maximum gift limits allowed. However since these trips, which are awarded because of the elected official representation of our city, affect our good will, and reputation, and take away time otherwise available to city interests, such trips should be fully disclosed, and authorized in advance and afterward by council.

Such gifts are also allowed exempt from FPPC limits if reimbursed by charitable organizations with Federal 501 (c) (3) status. This provision has been abused by organizations falsely claiming this status. Foreign governments and interests have attempted to hide their reimbursement to public officials in this manner. Even the FPPC has been misled by representations made to it, in connection with opinion letters to such organizations, who furnish them to elected officials, and directly to public officials. They qualify to some extent by saying dependent upon proper 501c3 designation, but previously have allegedly implied agreement to such qualification. The FPPC recently changed its advisory opinion procedures because of this problem.

In short FPPC letters do not fully protect cities from foreign exploitation of their good will, and appropriation of public official time and energy. Nor does simply requiring approval of written agreements. Exploitation by internet videos, photos, and simply attendance at a public event occurs. This problem needs to be specifically addressed.

George c. Fisher

Sent from my iPad
Received on Tue Feb 12 2019 - 05:47:22 PST

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