Am I Properly Registering as a Lobbyist at the Federal Level? | Ask the Experts - State and Federal Communications

January 23, 2023  •  

Am I Properly Registering as a Lobbyist at the Federal Level? | Ask the Experts

Q: Our organization is under the impression that we don’t have to register as lobbyists at the Federal level if we keep our lobbying activity isolated to our internal employees and don’t hire outside consultants.  I don’t think this is accurate.  Can you let me know the registration requirement for federal lobbying?

A: You are correct to be skeptical of this viewpoint.  Keeping lobbying activity isolated to in-house personnel does not impact the need to register.  Registration at the federal level is based on three criteria.  All three must be met in order to warrant registration, or, stated differently, registration is required when all three criteria are met.  The criteria are:

  1. An organization spends or is expected to spend at least $14,000 on lobbying activity during a quarterly period;
  2. An organization has at least one employee who spends 20% of their time engaged in lobbying activity; and
  3. That same 20% employee makes more than one lobbying contact.

When considering whether the monetary threshold has been met, all expenses must be considered including, compensation and reimbursed expenses associated with lobbying activities of all employees (not just designated “government relations” employees), overhead, payments to outside lobbyists and the portion of any dues paid to outside membership organization that are allocated toward lobbying.  Likewise, when determining whether an individual employee meets the 20% standard, all time engaged in any activity that is intended to support lobbying contacts must be considered including background and prepatory work, research, strategy sessions and conversations inside and outside the organization.

Once your organization meets all three thresholds, registration with the House and Senate is required within 45 days.  As a federal registrant, quarterly activity reporting is required as well as semi-annual contribution reporting.

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