Ethics: Advisory Opinion No. 1997-4

Advisory Opinion No. 1997-4
Advisory Opinion No. 1997-4

Application Of The Code Of Ethics For Lobbyists’ Registration Requirements

Jeffrey S. Greenfield, an associate with the government relations firm of Rome, Frankel and Kennelly, has asked the State Ethics Commission for an advisory opinion regarding the Code of Ethics for Lobbyists’ registration requirements.

Specifically, Mr. Greenfield has asked how these statutory requirements apply to the following two scenarios:

    1. A client hires a lobbying firm late in one year to lobby during the next year’s legislative session. All payments for lobbying services will occur during this following year. While the contract does not officially commence until the next year, the firm immediately begins to have conversations with state officials regarding its new client’s agenda (i.e., it begins to lobby).
    2. A client hires a lobbying firm late in one year to lobbying during the following year’s legislative session. In this instance, the contract states that the first payment is due upon the signing of the agreement; and that payment is, in fact, received in December. The lobbying firm, however, does not commence actual lobbing until the following year.

Under the Code of Ethics for Lobbyists, Connecticut General Statutes, Chapter 10, Part II, a lobbyist shall register with the State Ethics Commission if he or she "receives or agrees to receive compensation or reimbursement for actual expenses, or both, in a combined amount of two thousand dollars or more in a calendar year for lobbying". Conn. Gen. Stat. 1-94(1). Such registration shall be filed with the Commission "…on or before January fifteenth… or prior to the commencement of lobbying whichever is later." Conn. Gen. Stat. 1-95(a). Finally, under the Code, an individual is deemed to be engaged in "Lobbying" whenever he or she is "…communicating directly or soliciting others to communicate with any official or his staff in the legislative or executive branch of government, or in a quasi-public agency, for the purpose of influencing any legislative or administrative action…" Conn. Gen. Stat. 1-91(k).

In analyzing the foregoing provisions, it is apparent that the requirement to register is triggered by the act of lobbying; not by the date of receipt of payment for lobbying. In essence, 1-94 establishes, as a prerequisite to registration, the receipt or agreement receive two thousand dollars or more for lobbying in a calendar year. This section does not, however, specify that the receipt or agreement to receive such payments be temporally concurrent with the act of registration. Rather, it is 1-95 which mandates the time frame for registration; i.e., on or before January fifteenth or prior to commencing lobbying, whichever is later.

Furthermore, it is important to note that the above analysis is essential if the two most fundamental purposes of the Lobbyist Code, full disclosure of expenditures and regulation of gifts, are to be effectively implemented. Absent such an interpretation, one could easily evade the Code’s disclosure rules and gift restrictions by arranging for the receipt of payment for lobbying services to occur in a subsequent year.

Applying these conclusions to Mr. Greenfield’s questions:

  1. Having agreed to a lobbying contract, and presuming the dollar value of the contract exceeds the registration threshold, the lobbying firm must register "...prior to the commencement of lobbying...", i.e., before it beings to contact public officials on its client's behalf.
  2. Having agreed to such a contract, but not intending to commence lobbying until the subsequent year, the lobbying firm does not have to register until "…January fifteenth…or prior to the commencement of lobbying…" in that next year. In order to effectuate the Lobbyist Code’s purpose of comprehensive disclosure, under these circumstances the lobbyist firm’s first periodic financial report must include all statutorily required payments or expenditures"…made incident to lobbying and prior to registration which were not previously reported to the Commission, whether occurring in the year of registration or in a previous calendar year…" Regulations of Conn. State Agencies Sec. 1-92-48(e).

By order of the Commisison,

Maurice FitzMaurice

Content Last Modified on 9/7/2005 8:02:03 AM