Ask the Experts - Local Level Lobbying - State and Federal Communications

March 3, 2014  •  

Ask the Experts – Local Level Lobbying

Sarah Kovit

Q. My company is planning to get more engaged on the local level. What are some things I need to consider?

A. There are many considerations for a company prior to engaging on the local level. To ensure you are in compliance while interacting with municipal officials, it is important to check whether the municipality has a lobbyist registration ordinance, gift rules, or a pay-to-play ordinance. These provisions, if present, will impact your ability to engage with municipal officials. Requiring lobbyists to register on the municipal level is a quickly emerging trend throughout the U.S. This trend is not just impacting individuals who engage in what is generally regarded as lobbying, but also affecting permitting, sales, and other business functions.

For example, in San Jose, California, lobbying includes attempting to influence the proposal, drafting, development, adoption, recommendation, or approval of any contract, permit, license, or hiring action. The proliferation of these types of provisions has made it such that applying for a building permit, attempting to contract with the state, or even attempting to influence the selection of a candidate to be hired may be considered lobbying depending on the jurisdiction and the circumstances. The broad application of lobbying ordinances in municipalities merits attention and consideration prior to engaging to ensure registration is completed if needed.

An additional consideration is whether your company belongs to any trade associations with a lobbying presence in the municipality. Trade associations can help facilitate introductions to key players. However, you must still pay attention to the lobbyist registration threshold. It is a common misconception that being in the presence of a registered lobbyist negates an individual’s registration requirement. This is very rarely the case and should not be relied upon as a general rule. For more information about local level lobbying, please visit our website,


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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.


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