April 14, 2015 •
Ask the Experts – When Is Federal Registration Warranted?
Q. Our organization is under the impression that we don’t have to register as lobbyists at the federal level if we keep our lobbying activity isolated to our internal employees. I don’t think this is accurate. Can you let me know the registration requirement for federal lobbying?
A. You are correct to be skeptical of this viewpoint. Keeping lobbying activity isolated to in-house personnel does not impact the need to register. Registration at the federal level is based on three criteria. All three must be met in order to warrant registration, or, stated differently, registration is required when all three criteria are met. The criteria are:
- An organization spends or is expected to spend at least $12,500 on lobbying activity during a quarterly period;
- An organization has at least one employee who spends 20 percent of his or her time engaged in lobbying activity; and
- That same 20 percent employee makes more than one lobbying contact.
When considering whether the monetary threshold has been met, all expenses must be considered, including, compensation and reimbursed expenses associated with lobbying activities of all employees, overhead, payments to outside lobbyists, and the portion of any dues paid to outside membership organizations that are allocated toward lobbying. Likewise, when determining whether an individual employee meets the 20 percent standard, all time engaged in any activity that is intended to support lobbying contacts must be considered including background and preparatory work, research, strategy sessions and conversations.
Once your organization meets all three thresholds, registration with the House and Senate is required within 45 days. As a federal registrant, quarterly activity reporting is required as well as semiannual contribution reporting.
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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.
State and Federal Communications, Inc. provides research and consulting services for government relations professionals on lobbying laws, procurement lobbying laws, political contribution laws in the United States and Canada. Learn more by visiting stateandfed.com.