August 7, 2012 •
Ask the Experts – Reporting State-Level Lobbying When You Have Contracts with State Agencies
Q. My company has existing, ongoing contracts with various state agencies. Sometimes, I have discussions with employees of these agencies (technicians, managers, and directors) regarding their use of my company’s products. Do I have to register and report as a lobbyist?
A. As a general rule for state-level lobbying, as long as discussions are limited to the evaluation and servicing of existing contracts, this type of activity will not typically be considered lobbying, the definition of which often includes influencing executive branch action.
However, in some states, executive branch action encompasses the state’s procurement process, including decisions to modify, extend, expand, or renew existing contracts. Once discussions of this type occur, lobbyist registration and reporting may be triggered, depending on the state’s specific time and expenditure thresholds. Every state has different thresholds, and requires its own specific analysis.
Here are some important things to track when evaluating whether you need to be registered in a specific jurisdiction:
- Who are you talking to? In jurisdictions requiring registration for procurement lobbying, registration may hinge on whether the agency employee is considered a covered official. In some states, covered official is broadly defined to include all employees, while other jurisdictions require registration and reporting for attempting to influence directors or other major decision makers.
- How many contacts have you had with the agency? How much time have you spent? Some jurisdictions require registration before the very first contact, while other jurisdictions require registration and reporting once you spend a certain amount of time engaging in procurement lobbying. You may need to determine your pro-rata share of compensation for time you have spent preparing for and engaging in the communication.
- Is there a pending RFP or a contract renewal on the horizon? In some jurisdictions, the timing of your conversation with an agency official is important. Is there a pending decision before the state agency which would affect your company’s bottom line? If so, registration as a lobbyist may be required before engaging in communication which could be perceived as influencing the decision making process.
- Did you expend any money on behalf of agency employees or officials? In some jurisdictions, registration may be triggered by expenditures on behalf of employees or officials.
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(We are always available to answer questions from clients that are specific to your needs, and we encourage you to continue to call or e-mail us with questions about your particular company or organization. As always, we will confidentially and directly provide answers or information you need.) Our replies to your questions are not legal advice. Instead, these replies represent our analysis of laws, rules, and regulations.
State and Federal Communications, Inc. provides research and consulting services for government relations professionals on lobbying laws, procurement lobbying laws, political contribution laws in the United States and Canada. Learn more by visiting stateandfed.com.