Lobbyists are in a unique position where they are paid to spend all of their time trying to influence how lawmakers vote. The government has recognized the importance of watching and regulating lobbyists. Both state and federal governments require that you register as a lobbyist if you meet certain criteria.
Register as a Lobbyist
- Tally up the total amount of time that you’ve spent lobbying legislators. You’ll also need to figure out the total amount of money you’ve been paid to lobby. If you’ve spent more than 50 hours lobbying or been paid more than $6,000 from a single client to lobby in the last 6 months, you’ll need to register.
- Contact the office of the Secretary of the United States Senate for the appropriate lobbying paperwork. During certain periods of the year, you can also register as a lobbyist online through the Secretary’s website
Contact the Clerk of the House of Representatives of the United States for registration instructions as well as guidelines and restrictions for lobbying members of the U.S. House of Representatives.
- Remind your clients that they must also report their lobbying expenses if they meet certain criteria. It’s not your responsibility to remind your clients to register, although if you help them avoid fines, you might be provided with future work with them.
- Remember that you must re-register every calendar year. Lobbyists are also required to file both mid-year and year-end reports with the Secretary of the Senate.
- Register with other political groups if you lobby in different areas. The Clerk of the House of Representatives deals with the registration of lobbyists who speak to members of the House. The secretary of each individual state usually oversees state lobbying, although it varies by state; although check with each state as some states differ in their registration requirements. For example, in Louisiana registration is required with the State Ethics Commission.
- Be aware of the different registration prerequisites for the state and federal level. For example, in Massachusetts, you must register as a lobbyist if you are paid more than $5,000 for your services
- Registering as a lobbyist also requires a fee. In many states, the registration fee is $1,000 annually
- You should stay up to date with the laws that apply to lobbyists. For example, lobbyists cannot make give gifts to legislators that exceed $50 in value and can only give $100 worth of gifts to an individual each year.
- If you are a former member of the government, you cannot lobby the groups or departments you were a member of for 1 year. You must report prior government positions on your annual lobbying forms for the 2 years after you leave office.
- Failing to properly register with the Senate or House as a lobbyist can require you to pay a civil fine of no more than $50,000.