July 7, 2022 •
Ask the Experts – Hiring Outside Lobbying Firms
Question: I am hiring an outside lobbying firm soon. What sorts of compliance issues should I be watching for?
Answer: You no doubt have a list of criteria you use when evaluating an outside firm’s ability to advocate for your company, but there are other issues you should be looking for.
Many lobbyists are former government officials and staffers, which means they are likely subject to revolving door provisions. While those restrictions will have expired for the majority of lobbyists if there is a new hire at the firm they may still be subject to time or subject matter restrictions and unable to lobby on your behalf. Revolving door restrictions can be a general ban on any lobbying in that jurisdiction, a ban specific to a particular issue in which the former government employee was heavily involved, or a ban only on lobbying their former government agency. If your firm is recommending a lobbyist who recently left government employment, you will want to confirm the lobbyist has no restrictions that will affect their work.
You will also want to ensure the firm is properly filing required registrations and reports. This information is publicly available on state websites, so it is not difficult to determine if the firm is meeting its obligations. Look for reports that are past due and reports that were filed after the due date. This is especially critical if you are going to be relying on the firm to file your company’s principal reports for you.
Finally, search the state’s website for fines, penalties, and reprimands issued to the firm. Again, your company’s reputation, both with the public and with the government officials contacted, will be tied to the firm.
More information about these topics can be found in the Lobbying Compliance Guidebook on the State and Federal Communications subscriber website. Specifically, information regarding revolving door restrictions can be found in the Important Features of the Law section, report due date information can be found in the Reports Required section, and the Contact Information section has links to state ethics websites.
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.