Ask the Experts – What Are the Rules Regarding a Lobbyist’s Personal Political Contributions? - State and Federal Communications

February 16, 2011  •  

Ask the Experts – What Are the Rules Regarding a Lobbyist’s Personal Political Contributions?

Nola Werren
Nola Werren, Esq.

Q. As a registered lobbyist, am I allowed to make a personal political contribution to a general assembly member whom I might eventually lobby? Does it make a difference whether I am a constituent of the general assembly member? Is such a contribution reportable?

A. As is customary in the nature of government affairs work, the answer depends upon the state in which you are making the contribution. That means you need to check the rules and regulations on political contributions for each state before you make the contribution. Also, whether such contributions are permitted or reported depends upon the amount of the contribution.

Here are some relevant examples:

  • Personal political contributions by a lobbyist are reportable in Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire. In some instances, the reporting requirement extends to a member of the lobbyist’s immediate family also making a contribution.
  • In Pennsylvania, a registered lobbyist making a personal political contribution must register and report in the same manner required of PACs.
  • There is an absolute prohibition on personal political contributions by registered lobbyists in Connecticut and North Carolina.
  • In South Carolina, lobbyists are prohibited from making contributions to a candidate or anyone acting on behalf of a candidate if the lobbyist engages in lobbying the public office or public body for which the candidate is seeking election.
  • In California, lobbyists may not contribute to state candidates or officeholders, or their controlled committees, if registered to lobby the candidate or officeholder’s agency.
  • In Alaska, a lobbyist may not make a contribution to a candidate for office in a district outside the lobbyist’s own voting district. This prohibition continues for one year after a lobbyist’s registration or renewed registration date. A lobbyist who contributes to a legislative candidate must file a report within 30 days after making the contribution.

Political contributions not otherwise prohibited by a registered lobbyist could nonetheless be prohibited based on the particular state’s pay-to-play laws. Also, always make sure there are no restrictions on making the contribution during the legislative session.

Finally, it bears repeating to check the laws in the particular state before you make the contribution.

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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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