Ask the Experts – The Umbrella Exemption - State and Federal Communications

June 6, 2016  •  

Ask the Experts – The Umbrella Exemption

Shamus WilliamsQ. When I talk to state officials, I’m always with my registered contract lobbyists. That means I’m exempt from registering, correct?

A. The kind of exemption you are referring to is commonly called an umbrella exception. In most instances, being with a registered lobbyist does not exempt an individual from having to register as a lobbyist.

California and Utah are two states with an umbrella exception, but there are limits to those exceptions. In Utah, an individual is not considered a lobbyist (and thus does not have to register) if he or she:

Interacts with a public official in that official’s capacity as a public official while accompanied by a registered lobbyist who is lobbying in relation to the subject of the interaction or while presenting at a legislative committee meeting at the same time the registered lobbyist is attending another legislative committee meeting; and

Does not make an expenditure for, or on behalf of, a public official in relation to the interaction or during the period of interaction.

California’s umbrella exception is the most well-known, but it was narrowed in March. Now, the umbrella exception will only apply if the individual:

Is an employee of a lobbyist employer;

Meets or speaks with a state official in the company of a registered lobbyist retained by the individual’s lobbyist employer; and

Participates as a subject matter expert regarding a legislative or administrative action at issue.

California’s exception was narrowed to prevent contract lobbyists from being able to utilize the exception and avoid registration and reporting requirements.

As you can see, there are very few umbrella exceptions allowing you to avoid registration. And even when a state has an umbrella exception, there are limits on who can take advantage of them. If you will be attempting to influence a state official, be sure to give us a call prior to your meeting to make sure lobbyist registration will not be required.

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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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