Ethics: Advisory Opinion No. 1997-5

Advisory Opinion No. 1997-5
Advisory Opinion No. 1997-5

Application Of The Lobbyist Code’s Registration
Requirements To Actions Taken Outside
Of An Agency’s Rules and Procedures

Under The Code Of Ethics For Lobbyists, Conn. Gen. Stat. Chapter 10, Part II, "Administrative action" is broadly defined to encompass any action or nonaction of any executive or quasi-public agency regarding "any…matter which is within the official jurisdiction or cognizance of such an agency" Conn. Gen. Stat. 1-91(a). Additionally, the Code defines "Lobbying" to include "…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…administrative action. " Id. at (k). The practical effect of the foregoing provisions is, however, significantly limited by both statutory and regulatory exceptions (e.g., lobbyist registration not required when communicating regarding a matter in which the legal rights, duties or privileges of a party are to be determined or when communicating as a salesperson). Conn. Gen. Stat. 1-91(k)(1) & (2); Regulations of Conn. State Agencies Sec. 1-92-42a(3).

In establishing and implementing these exceptions, however, the Commission has made clear that "Not exempt from the definition of ‘Lobbying’…are communications regarding…matters in which the rights, duties or privileges of a party are to be determined, made to persons outside the agency with official jurisdiction in the case or matter for the purpose of influencing the decision in such a case or matter…" Regulations of Conn. State Agencies Sec. 1-92-42a(b). The Commission has now been asked whether the limitations set forth in Sec. 1-92-42a(b) would apply with equal effect if a paid representative acts outside the established rules and procedures of an agency (e.g., by seeking the intervention of the agency head) in an attempt to influence a case, contract or other matter; but does not, in doing so, go outside the agency itself. The answer is, unequivocally, in the affirmative. Such actions (i.e., seeking to utilize one’s influence or contacts to effect governmental decision making) are the essence of lobbying. Consequently, the same underlying policy considerations, disclosure and regulation of such activity under the provisions of The Code Of Ethics For Lobbyists, are present regardless of whether the actions occur within or outside the decision making agency. Therefore, whenever an individual receives two thousand dollars or more for representation conducted outside of an agency’s rules and procedures in an attempt to influence that agency’s legal or contractual determinations he or she must register as a lobbyist.

In rendering this Opinion, the State Ethics Commission acts pursuant to Conn. Gen. Stat. 1-92(5) which authorizes the Commission to issue advisory opinions regarding the requirements of The Code Of Ethics For Lobbyists. This Ruling, however, does not, and legally cannot, seek to determine whether or not any of the above described activities may be violative of the statutory provisions regarding ex parte contact contained in the Uniform Administrative Procedure Act. Conn. Gen. Stat. Chapter 54 at 4-181.

By order of the Commission,

Maurice FitzMaurice

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