Ask the Experts – Non-Lobbyist Employees - State and Federal Communications

September 20, 2010  •  

Ask the Experts – Non-Lobbyist Employees

Nola WerrenQ. I am a registered lobbyist, and based on my time, compensation, and expenses, I have crossed the threshold prescribed by state law requiring registration. My company has employees whose contact with state legislators, executive officials, and employees meets the definition of lobbying, but they do not exceed the threshold requiring registration. Am I under any obligation to disclose their lobbying activities even though they are not registered? Is my employer?

A. This is a good example of something we advise our clients all the time: know your state! Here are examples of jurisdictions where you need to know the nuances of non-lobbyist reporting requirements.

CALIFORNIA: You are only required to register as a lobbyist if you spend at least one-third of your time lobbying in a calendar month. However, other employees at your company might need to report their pro-rata share of compensation if they spend 10 percent or more of their time lobbying in any one calendar month.

This includes time spent involved in grassroots activity, providing research services, and preparing materials to be used for lobbying. This information is disclosed on the lobbyist employer report Form 635 as “Other Payments to Influence Legislative or Administrative Action,” Part III, Section D. Luckily, clerical staff are never considered non-lobbyist employees.

NEW JERSEY: If you are a lobbyist, you must register if you spend more than 20 hours in a calendar year attempting to influence legislation, regulations, or governmental processes by communicating with a state official. Registered governmental affairs agents must disclose their operational costs, including compensation paid to support personnel, including legal, technical, and clerical staff. Now for the big exception. The compensation of an employee working less than 450 hours per calendar year in support of a governmental affairs agent is not reportable. (TIP: We advise you have support personnel track their time to ensure they do not exceed the 450-hour threshold.)

TEXAS: In this state, you are either a lobbyist or not – there is no in-between. In addition, individuals registered in Texas only report their own expenditures. Compensation is not reportable. Ever.

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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