Ethics: Advisory Opinion No. 99-32

Advisory Opinion No. 99-32
Advisory Opinion No. 99-32

Proper Calculation Of Registration Fee Payments When A Business
Organization Replaces One Of Its Lobbyists

Attorney Marshall Collins of the firm of Marshall R. Collins and Associates has asked the State Ethics Commission: "whether a lobbying firm, that in the odd-numbered year, has paid two-year lobbyist registration fees for one of its staff lobbyists, must in the even-numbered year pay an additional year of such fees for a new staff lobbyist that replaces the former lobbyist?"

Attorney Collins argues against the imposition of such additional fees on the grounds that it is inappropriate to require the payment of three years of fees for the same number of lobbyists to represent the same clients during the two-year registration period. Furthermore, he notes that the registration process is triggered by the "commencement of lobbying"; while, in this instance, the replacement lobbyist is only continuing prior work. Finally, Attorney Collins suggests that the additional fees do not "appear to have a clear relationship to any additional workload by the Commission."

Pursuant to Conn. Gen. Stat. 1-94, "A lobbyist shall register with the commission…if…he: (1) 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…."

Pursuant to Conn. Gen. Stat. 1-95(b), "Each registrant shall pay a reasonable fee not in excess of the cost of administering the registration form…plus the cost of collecting, filing, copying and distributing the information filed by registrants under section 1-96…. A registrant who commences lobbying in an even-numbered year…shall pay one-half of the biennial registration fee established by the Commission."

Attorney Collins’ first two arguments are based on a fundamental misinterpretation of the foregoing statutory registration requirements. In essence, he posits that since his firm (a "Business organization" as defined by Conn. Gen. Stat. 1-91(t)) has paid fees for the two year registration period and is not increasing its number of lobbyists, no additional fee should be required.

The business organization, however, is not the registered lobbyist. It is solely a statutory creation, established to simplify reporting by a group of individual communicator lobbyists working for the same firm. The fact that this business organization has not increased its aggregate total of lobbyists is, therefore, not determinative of whether an additional registration fee is required. Rather, the fee is triggered, pursuant to 1-94 and 1-95, when a new individual registers, regardless of whether the individual is a replacement for or in addition to the business organization’s current lobbyists.

An example may best illustrate the concept at issue. If a lobbyist member of Attorney Collins’ firm left to work directly for one of its clients (e.g., assuming the position of in-house lobbyist for a client lobbyist trade association) the individual would not need to reregister, since the registration in question is personal to that individual; not the property of the business organization. This has been the statutory registration scheme since the inception of the Lobbyist Code in 1978; and remains the statutory requirement, regardless of the fact the Code went from annual to biennial registration in 1997.

Turning to Attorney Collins’ final argument, it is not accurate to state that the substitution of one communicator lobbyist for another does not create a workload for the Commission equal to that generated when an additional lobbyist is registered. Specifically, in both instances the business organization’s financial reporting requirements are identical. Additionally, the substitution triggers an amended registration from the business organization essentially equivalent to that it would file when hiring an additional member. Furthermore, both occasions require the issuance of a new lobbying identification badge. Finally, whether a replacement or an addition, the new lobbyist requires the same ancillary support services from the Commission staff (e.g., informational materials, education, etc.)

In summary, consistent with the unambiguous statutory requirements, a business organization replacing one of its communicator lobbyists must pay additional registration fees for the remainder of the biennial registration period.

By order of the Commission,

Stanley Burdick,

Content Last Modified on 9/7/2005 8:02:57 AM