What is Lobbying?
Lobbying is the act of trying to influence government decisions or actions, at any level - municipal, state, federal, or executive agencies.
Individuals can lobby, but more often it’s done by groups. Both for-profits and non-profit groups lobby. Some groups hire lobbyists, others use staff members or volunteers to lobby elected officials.
Wait, Am I Lobbying?
You are speaking to a legislator about a specific bill and trying to convince them to
vote a certain way.
You are encouraging your members or the public to get in contact with their legislators and convince them to vote a certain way on a specific bill.
The Massachusetts lobbying law was recently amended, and the changes are effective as of September 29, 2009. For a full text of the lobbying law, refer to M.G.L. c. 3, §§ 39 – 50 in an official edition of the Massachusetts General Laws.
Chapter 3: Section 39. Definitions
Section 39. As used in sections thirty-nine to fifty, inclusive, the following words shall, unless the context clearly indicates otherwise, have the following meanings:—
“Act to communicate directly with a covered executive official to influence a decision concerning policy or procurement”, shall include any direct communication by a person to such official by telephone, mail, commercial messenger, facsimile transmission, electronic mail, other direct means or in person, but shall not be deemed to include the following activities:
(a) a request for a meeting, a request for the status of an action or any similar administrative request, if the request does not include an attempt to influence a covered executive official;
(b) an act made in the course of participation in an advisory committee or task force;
(c) providing information in writing in response to a written request for specific information by an officer or employee of the executive branch or an authority, including, but not limited to, statewide constitutional officers and employees thereof;
(d) an act required by subpoena, civil investigative demand, or otherwise compelled by statute, regulation or other action of the executive branch or an authority, including, but not limited to, statewide constitutional offices;
(e) a communication made to an officer or employee of the executive branch or an authority, including, but not limited to, statewide constitutional officers and employees thereof, with regard to: (1) a judicial proceeding or a criminal or civil law enforcement inquiry, investigation or proceeding; or (2) a filing or proceeding that the executive branch or an authority, including, but not limited to, statewide constitutional offices, is specifically required by statute or regulation to maintain or conduct on a confidential basis; if such executive branch or authority, including, but not limited to, statewide constitutional offices, is charged with responsibility for such proceeding, inquiry, investigation or filing;
(f) an act made in compliance with written agency procedures regarding an adjudicatory proceeding, as defined in section one of chapter thirty A, conducted by the agency, or similar adjudicatory or evidentiary proceedings conducted by any department, board, commission or official not governed by chapter thirty A;
(g) a petition for action by the executive branch or an authority, including, but not limited to, statewide constitutional offices made in writing and required to be a matter of public record pursuant to established procedures of such executive branch or authority, including, but not limited to, statewide constitutional offices;
(h) an act made on behalf of an individual with regard to that individual’s benefits,
employment or other personal matters;
(i) a response to a request for proposals or similar invitation by an officer or employee of the executive branch or an authority, including, but not limited to, statewide constitutional officers and employees thereof, for information relevant to a contract;
(j) participation in a bid conference;
(k) an appeal or request for review of a procurement decision.
State Definition of Lobbying
The Nitty Gritty
Can my non-profit organization lobby the state and federal government?
Yes! How much you can lobby the federal government without losing your nonprofit status depends on what type of organization you are, and how large your budget is.
Do I need to register as a lobbyist with the State of Massachusetts?
You do not need to register as a lobbyist “if a person engages in lobbying for not more than 25 hours during the reporting period, AND receives less than $2500 during that period.” → if you exceed those limits, you must register with the state!
It costs $100 to register as a lobbyist, and $100 to register as a client (per each lobbyist relationship - most watershed associations will only have one lobbyist relationship). The organization and the lobbyist it employs must disclose all expenditures spent on lobbying activities, including “lobbyist salaries, compensation, operating expenses, meals, travel and entertainment expenses and any additional expenses.”
Lobbyists must file a detailed semiannual report, due on or before July 15 (for the period of January 1 - June 30), and on or before January 15 (for the period of July 1 - December 31). These reports must include the date, place, amount, and payee of meal/travel/entertainment event, as well the names & addresses of everyone participating. The lobbyist must report to which bill or state agency & subject matter the activities were related, as well as the lobbyist’s position on that issue.
Watch out - there is a late fee for late disclosure filing! $50 per day for up to 20 days after the deadline, $100 per day after that.
Questions about lobbying rules in Massachusetts, including what activities are considered "lobbying"?