Ethics: Advisory Opinion No. 1993-14

Advisory Opinion No. 1993-14
Advisory Opinion No. 1993-14

Reportability Of Time And Money Spent By Registered Client
Lobbyists And Their Employees To Attend Various Social Events

The petitioner, a registered client lobbyist, has asked to what extent it must report to the State Ethics Commission the time and money it spends sending representatives to various social events, such as fund raisers and award programs, at which reportable public officials are in attendance.  The petitioner further asks whether the effect of attending such functions is the same for registered lobbyist-employees and those who are not registered, and whether an employee who personally pays to attend must report the payment to the Ethics Commission.  For purposes of responding to the petitioner’s inquiry, the Commission poses a hypothetical situation in which the event is a local sports award program.

The Code of Ethics for Lobbyists and the Commission’s Regulations require registrants to disclose amounts expended or received both for “lobbying,” defined at Conn. Gen. Stat. 1-91(k), and for activities “in furtherance of lobbying,” a term not defined in the Lobbyist Code.  (See Conn. Gen. Stat. 1-96, et seq. and Regulations of Connecticut State Agencies, 1-92-41, et seq.).  Section 1-92-48 of the Commission’s Regulations, for example, requires the petitioner to report the pro rata value of the time its lobbyist-employees spend “in furtherance of lobbying,” and defines the term to include research, time spent actually communicating, formal testimony, and “any other time consumed in furtherance of lobbying” for which the employee is compensated by the petitioner.  The Commission, in keeping with the legislative intent favoring disclosure, broadly interprets “any other time consumed in furtherance of lobbying” to include activities and expenditures which foster good will between lobbyists and public officials, such as social occasions where issues are not actually discussed, unless the activity is clearly personal and unrelated to any lobbying purpose.

If the petitioner pays for a communicator registrant-employee to attend an awards program at least in part because state public officials will be in attendance, the petitioner has paid for the opportunity to either foster good will or to discuss a particular issue.  In either case, expenses associated with the registrant-employee’s attendance will be considered to have been in furtherance of lobbying.  The petitioner must report any related expenditures, such as tickets or meals, as well as the value of any compensation paid to the registrant for his or her attendance.  The petitioner is not required to report the value of any compensation paid to the registrant for his or her travel time.  The above would also apply to employees who receive compensation for lobbying and in furtherance of lobbying, but who have not reached the monetary threshold and have therefore not registered.

In contrast, the petitioner may choose to pay for a communicator registrant-employee to attend the program for a purpose other than associating with public officials, for example, to show support for local athletics.  Under such circumstances, if public officials are, in fact, in attendance, the expenditure (including the value of the registrant-employee’s compensation) will be reportable only if the registrant-employee actually communicates with the public official(s) in furtherance of lobbying.  Again, the above would also apply to employees who receive compensation for lobbying and in furtherance of lobbying, but who have not reached the monetary threshold and have therefore not registered.

If the petitioner pays for the attendance of an employee who neither is a registered lobbyist nor receives compensation or reimbursement specifically for lobbying, there is generally no need to report the expenditure if the employee takes it upon himself to discuss substantive issues with a public official.  Assuming that it is beyond the scope of the employee’s responsibilities, such communication would be completely uncompensated, and therefore not reportable.  The expenditure would be reportable, however, for an individual such as a company officer who, by the position he or she holds, is authorized (and paid) to speak on behalf of the petitioner, even if such person is not designated a lobbyist.  The Commission notes that even if such a person receives no compensation specifically for lobbying, he or she will be required to register as a lobbyist once he or she has spent over five hours actually communicating and in furtherance of lobbying and has been paid $1,000 or more for such efforts.  See Conn. Gen. Stat. 1-91(1)(7).  A person who spends time in furtherance of lobbying but who neither communicates nor solicits others to communicate will not be required to register as a lobbyist.

If an employee were to make a personal, unreimbursed expenditure to attend the program, neither the employee nor the petitioner would be required to report the expenditure to the State Ethics Commission, regardless of whether the employee registered as a lobbyist.  Assuming that the employee is not attending the program on behalf of, or at the behest of, the petitioner, the value of the employee’s time, as well, would not be reportable.

The Commission notes that the above opinion does not address, nor is it intended to address, issues which may be raised by lobbyists other than a registered client lobbyist such as the petitioner.  A communicator lobbyist-law firm, for example, may wish to seek further advice from the Commission concerning the reportability of its employees’ activities.

By order of the Commission,

Christopher T. Donohue
Chairperson



Content Last Modified on 9/7/2005 7:59:47 AM