The Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995 (“LDA”)1 requires organizations that lobby officials in the executive and legislative branches of the federal government to complete two tasks: (1) registration, and (2) reporting. First, organizations that lobby, register with the Secretary of the United States Senate and the Clerk of the House of Representatives. Second, such organizations must regularly report on their lobbying activities. Recently, as a result of a number of scandals involving Members of Congress and lobbyists, Congress passed the “Honest Leadership and Open Government Act” (“HLOGA”),2 which was signed into law Sept. 14, 2007. HLOGA enhanced registration and reporting requirements that apply to lobbyists. The following discussion sets forth a checklist of steps that organizations that lobby must take to effectively register and report lobbying activities.
Step One – Determine Whether Registration is Required
The first question an organization must ask is: Is this organization required to register as a lobbyist? The LDA provides three threshold questions, the answers to which determine whether an organization’s lobbying activity requires registration with the House and Senate, using the form known as the “LD-1.”3 If the answer to each is “yes,” an organization must register by filing an LD-1 with the Secretary of the Senate and the Clerk of the House within 45 days of the date a lobbyist employed by an organization makes a “second lobbying contract,” which is explained below.4
- If the organization lobbies on its own behalf, do the organizations’ total lobbying expenses exceed $10,000 during a quarter? Under the LDA, an organization that lobbies on its own behalf is not required to register if lobbying expenses were $10,000 or less over a quarter, but is required to register if its lobbying expenses exceeded $10,000.5
- If the organization lobbies on its own behalf, do the lobbying activities over a quarter constitute more than 20 percent of a lobbyist’s time? Under the LDA, if a lobbyist employed by an organization that lobbies on its own behalf devotes more than 20 percent of his or her time lobbying activities,6 then the organization must register.7
- Was more than one lobbying contact made during a quarter? Under the LDA, a lobbyist must make more than one lobbying contact with a federal official during a quarter to trigger the registration requirement.8 A “lobbying contact” is an oral or written communication (including e-mail) to a covered executive branch official9 or a covered legislative branch official10 regarding: (1) formulation, modification, or adoption of federal legislation, a federal rule, regulation, executive order, or other federal program or policy; (2) the nomination or confirmation of any person who requires Senate confirmation; or (3) the administration of a federal program or policy (including the negotiation, award, or administration of a federal contract, grant, loan, permit, or license).11 Covered officials include any Member of Congress or staff person. They also encompass select executive branch officials, including those in policy-making positions and those who require Senate confirmation for their positions.
If each of these three requirements is met, then an organization must register by completing and filing an LD-1 with the Clerk of the House and the Secretary of the Senate.
Step Two – File the LD-1 with the House and the Senate
The LD-1 requires organizations to provide the following items of information:
- Name, address, business telephone number, and principal place of business of the registrant, and a general description of its business or activities
- Name, address, and principal place of business of any organization, other than a client, that both (1) contributes more than $5,000 to the registrant, or the registrant’s client, in the quarterly period to fund the lobbying activities of the registrant; and (2) actively participates12 in the planning, supervision, or control of such lobbying activities
- Name, address, principal place of business, amount of any contribution of more than $5,000 to the lobbying activities of the registrant, and approximate percentage of equitable ownership in the client, if any, of any foreign entity that (1) holds at least 20 percent equitable ownership in the client or any organization identified in the prior bullet; (2) directly or indirectly, in whole or in major part, plans, supervises, controls, directs, finances, or subsidizes the activities of the client or any organization identified in the prior bullet; or (3) is an affiliate13 of the client or any organization identified in the prior bullet and has a direct interest in the outcome of the lobbying activity
- A statement of the issue areas in which the registrant expects to engage in lobbying activities
- Name of each employee of the registrant who has acted or whom the registrant expects to act as a lobbyist on behalf of the client14
Step Three – File Quarterly Lobbying Reports with the House and Senate
Once an organization has registered, it must file a lobbying report each quarter, regardless of whether anyone within the organization performed lobbying activities during the quarterly period.15 The form on which quarterly reports must be submitted is known as a form “LD-2.” Organizations that are required to register as lobbyists must file an LD-2 with the Secretary of the Senate and the Clerk of the House no later than 20 days after the end of each quarter.16 Organizations must provide the following information in LD-2s:
- Name of the registrant, the name of the client, and any changes or updates to the information provided in the initial registration
- A statement of the issue areas lobbied, officials contacted and individuals who acted as lobbyists
- A good faith estimate of the amount of income or expenses related to lobbying activities—an exact figure need not be provided
Step Four - File Semi-Annual Reports of Political Contributions
Organizations required to register as lobbyists must disclose political contributions they make, as well as any contributions made by an employing entity, such as a political action committee or “PAC.”17 HLOGA requires lobbyists to provide this information to the House and Senate, while separate statutes and regulations require that this information be reported to the Federal Election Commission. The form for contributions is called the form “LD-203,” and it must be completed and filed no later than 30 days after the end of the semiannual period beginning on the first day of January and July of each year.18 A checklist of information organizations must provide on the LD-203 is as follows:
- Name of any entity who has filed a Form LD-1 to register its lobbying activity, as well as any lobbyists identified on Form LD-1
- Names of all political committees established or controlled by either the organization or an individual working as a lobbyist on the organization’s behalf
- Names of each federal candidate or officeholder, leadership PAC, or political party committee, to whom aggregate contributions equal to or exceeding $200 were made by the person or organization, or a political committee established or controlled by the person or organization within the semiannual period, and the date and amount of each such contribution made within the semiannual period
- Funds contributed or disbursed during the semiannual period by the organization, or a political committee established or controlled by the organization, including the date contributed, the amount contributed, and the person to whom the funds were contributed where the contribution was: (1) for the purpose of paying the cost of an event to honor or recognize a covered legislative branch official or covered executive branch official; (2) to an entity that is named for a covered legislative branch official, or to a person or entity in recognition of such official; (3) to an entity established, financed, maintained, or controlled by a covered legislative branch official or covered executive branch official, or an entity designated by such official; or (4) to pay the costs of a meeting, retreat, conference, or other similar event held by, or in the name of, a covered official
- Name of each presidential library foundation, and each presidential inaugural committee, to whom contributions equal to or exceeding $200 were made by the person or organization, or a political committee established or controlled by the person or organization, within the semiannual period, and the date and amount of each such contribution within the semiannual period
- A certification that the individual filing the LD-203 has read and is familiar with restrictions to the giving of gifts, food and travel and that organization on whose behalf he or she is submitting the filing has not violated those restrictions.19
Step Five – Mandatory Electronic Filing of All Reports
HLOGA requires electronic filing of all reports under the LDA.20 Each registrant and listed lobbyist must obtain user identification numbers and passwords by accessing www.disclosure.senate.gov. Generally, user identification numbers and passwords will be issued and uploaded to the computer systems of the Senate and House within two days after completing the necessary forms.