July 1, 2011 •
Ask the Experts – What to Know If You’re Not Registered
Q. I am a lobbyist but am not registered in a jurisdiction because I mainly use outside counsel and do not meet the registration threshold. Should I be concerned with any reporting requirements or other restrictions?
A. Yes, you need to be familiar with the jurisdiction’s reporting requirements. Even if you do not surpass a registration threshold, your activities may require disclosure. In Pennsylvania, a principal/company is required to report pro-rata compensation and expenses paid to non-lobbyists if they engage in lobbying activities, yet remain under the $2,500 per quarter registration threshold. Though you never engage in direct lobbying, preparation, or strategic planning with your lobbying firm, it may be reportable.
Verify the reporting of political contributions in your jurisdiction. If you are not a registered lobbyist, you may still have responsibility for directing how political contributions are distributed. Vermont, for example, requires political contributions to be disclosed on an employer’s report.
Finally, be aware of gift restrictions. You may believe it is permissible to take a public official to lunch or for a cup of coffee because you are not registered in the jurisdiction. In Massachusetts, a person not registered as a lobbyist may only provide gifts valued at less than $50 to a state, county, or municipal employee. If your company is registered as a lobbyist employer in the jurisdiction, gift restrictions may be applicable to all employees. Michigan only allows a lobbyist employer to provide gifts in a month which are valued at $55 or less. Expenditures which are reimbursed are attributable to the company in all instances. Whether these expenses require reporting will vary.
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