Ethics: Advisory Opinion No. 1998-25

Advisory Opinion No. 1998-25
Advisory Opinion No. 1998-25

Applicability Of Requirement To Disclose Terms Of Compensation On
Registration Form Prior To The Commencement Of Lobbying

On occasion, a business organization reports the receipt of compensation on its periodic lobbyist financial reports without previously disclosing the fundamental terms of its agreement to engage in lobbying activity. Commission Attorney, Catherine Nasto, Esq., has asked whether this practice is permissible, under the Code of Ethics For Lobbyists, Chapter 10, Part II, Connecticut General Statutes; and specifically, whether a communicator lobbyist may commence lobbying activity prior to reaching an agreement with the client lobbyist regarding its terms of compensation.

A communicator lobbyist or business organization must register with the Commission if it 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. It follows that the parties must have an agreement in place in order to determine whether the two thousand dollar threshold amount has been met.

Pursuant to Conn. Gen. Stat. 1-95(a) and Regulations of Connecticut State Agencies 1-92-46, each communicator registrant must include on its lobbyist registration form, at the time of registration, its terms of compensation, reimbursement or agreement for engaging in lobbying. Therefore, a lobbyist registration is not considered complete and the lobbyist not properly registered until such information has been disclosed. Additionally, to allow a communicator to negotiate the fee after the commencement of lobbying would lead to contingency fee arrangements, in violation of Conn. Gen. Stat. 1-97(b), since the parties would be in a position to negotiate terms based on past performance during the registration period.

In summary, the Commission expects that no communicator commence lobbying activity for any client unless they have first agreed to the terms of compensation. That agreement must be included on the registration form. If not, the lobbyist will not be considered properly registered. Any subsequent changes in the terms can then be disclosed on the proper reporting form during the year. Otherwise, both the communicator and the client lobbyists may be open to charges of improper fee arrangements.

By order of the Commission,

Stanley Burdick,

Content Last Modified on 9/7/2005 8:02:27 AM