What is a Lobbying Contact
A “lobbying contact” means any oral or written communication (including e-mail) with a covered federal official through which a person seeks to influence legislation, government programs, or the negotiation or award of a federal contract. It is considered lobbying when company employees meet with Members of Congress, congressional staffers, or covered executive branch official and employees to influence the formulation, modification, or adoption of:
- Federal legislation;
- Federal rules and regulations;
- Executive Orders;
- Any policy, program or position of the United States government;
- The administration or execution of a federal program or policy (including the negotiation, award, or administration of a federal contract, grant, loan, permit, or license); or
- The nomination or confirmation of a person subject to confirmation by the Senate through communication with federal executive branch officials.
Certain kinds of communications are not considered “lobbying contacts,” such as requests for a meeting or similar administrative requests, so long as the contact does not include an attempt to influence a covered official. Also, it is not lobbying when an employee provides information, in writing, to a covered official who has requested that information. Grassroots lobbying regarding federal legislation or executive action is also not considered lobbying under the LDA.
What is a Lobbying Activity
As noted above, to qualify as a federal lobbyist, an employee must spend more than 20% of his or her time during a calendar quarter on “lobbying activities.” “Lobbying activities” are defined more broadly than “lobbying contacts.” They include direct communications and
time spent “behind-the-scenes” in support of such contacts, such as:
- Preparing for meetings;
- Planning and research;
- Drafting materials, such as talking points for a meeting;
- Participating in the development of lobbying strategy; or
- Having lunch or coffee with a covered official and discussing issues on which the registered corporation is lobbying.
The key to determining what constitutes “lobbying activities” is to look at why the activity is being done. If the intent is to support ongoing or future lobbying, then it falls within the definition of lobbying activities. If, on the other hand, an employee is gathering information or drafting materials for some purpose unrelated to contact with public officials, then it is not. Sometimes only a portion of an expense may be allocated to lobbying, such as expenses incurred on a mixed-purpose business trip.
The definition of lobbying activities is also important for reporting purposes. Once a corporation is registered, it must account on a quarterly basis for all expenses incurred for lobbying activities. Even if an employee devotes less than 20% of his or her time to lobbying activities and does not qualify as a lobbyist, the compensation paid to the employee for time spent on lobbying activities must be captured on the company’s quarterly lobbying expense report, as described below.