Ask the Experts - Should we register if we have a federal lobbyist? - State and Federal Communications

March 1, 2016  •  

Ask the Experts – Should we register if we have a federal lobbyist?

Rebecca South profileQ. For a number of years, our association has hired outside lobbying firms to lobby on our behalf. I was under the impression that because they registered and reported their lobbying activities for us, we didn’t need to register. Based on a recent conversation, I understand this may not be the case and we may need to register the association itself as a federal registrant. Can you tell me the guidelines in this regard?

A. Thanks for your question. This is a consideration that can often be overlooked when determining the need to register at the federal level. There is no specific exception outlined in the registration requirements that would negate an organization from having to register if it hires outside consultants that registers and reports their activity on behalf of their client. Essentially, if your organization meets the three registration thresholds, you need to register without regard for whether your outside consultants are also registered. The three criteria are:

  1. An organization must have at least one employee who spends 20 percent or more of his or her time engaged in lobbying activities. This includes time working and coordinating with your consultant about your lobbying initiatives and also includes background work done in association with a lobbying effort;
  2. That same employee must have two or more lobbying contacts. There is no time frame in which the two contacts have to occur. The two contacts could be a year apart from each other but once the second contact has been made, this threshold has been satisfied; and
  3. An organization must spend $12,500 or more on lobbying activity during a three month period. Expenditures include payments made to outside consultants and membership organizations that are allocated toward lobbying efforts. In addition, compensation, expenses, and overhead associated with any and all lobbying activity that is occurring within the organization must be calculated for purposes of determining if this threshold has been met.

If your association meets these three requirements, you need to register and begin reporting your internal activities on a quarterly basis. Your outside consultants will also continue to report the activity in which they engage on your behalf.

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