Reporting 101

Once you register as a lobbyist, you will be responsible for reporting expenditures on a lobby activity report (Form LA). Lobby activity reports for monthly filers are due by the tenth day of each month and cover activities occurring during the preceding calendar month. Annual filers submit one report for the entire calendar year by January 10 of the following year. For detailed information on completing the lobby activity report, please review the instructions for the lobby activity report (Form LA).

REPORTING LOBBY EXPENDITURES BY CATEGORY

Reporting by Nature of Expenditure. On a lobby activity report, you must report total lobby expenditures in the following categories:

  • transportation and lodging;
  • food and beverages;
  • entertainment;
  • gifts other than awards and mementos;
  • awards and mementos;
  • expenditures made for the attendance of a state officer or employee at a political fundraiser or charity event; and
  • mass media expenditures.

You are not required to include in this breakdown expenditures for events to which all legislators are invited.

Mass Media Expenditures. Under the category “mass media expenditures,” a registrant must report expenditures made for broadcast or print advertisements, direct mailings, and other mass media communications that support, oppose, or encourage others to support or oppose pending legislation or administrative action if those communications are made to a person other than a member, employee, or stockholder of an entity that reimburses or employs the registrant. Even though these expenses must be reported by a registrant, they do not count toward the expenditure threshold for registration. (Note: If you plan to make mass media communications to influence legislation or administrative action, you should be aware of Section 305.027 of the Government Code, which sets out disclosure requirements for legislative advertising.)

Reporting by Category of Persons who Benefit. You must also report total lobby expenditures (other than mass media expenditures) attributable to the following groups:

  • expenditures for state senators;
  • expenditures for state representatives;
  • expenditures for elected or appointed state officers, other than state senators or state representatives;
  • expenditures for legislative agency employees;
  • expenditures for executive agency employees;
  • expenditures for the immediate family (spouse and dependent children) of a state officer or employee;
  • expenditures for guests (when invited by a state senator, a state representative, other elected or appointed state officers, a legislative agency employee, or an executive agency employee); and
  • expenditures for events to which all legislators are invited.

DETAILED REPORTING

In some cases, you must identify the individual who benefits from a lobby expenditure and provide other details about the expenditure. (You are not required to do detailed reporting of expenditures for events to which all legislators are invited.) Detailed reporting is required if a lobbyist spends:

  • more than $90* in one day for food and beverages, transportation, or lodging for a state officer or employee;
  • more than $90* in one day for entertainment for a state officer or employee or for the spouse or dependent child of a state officer or employee;
  • any amount for a state officer or employee to attend a political fundraiser or charity event.

Detailed reporting is also required if a lobbyist gives a state officer or employee a gift, award, or memento the value of which exceeds $50.

* The statute sets this threshold at 60% of the amount of the legislative per diem. Effective March 17, 2011, the per diem is $150. (Prior to that date, the legislative per diem was $168.)

GENERAL REPORTING RULES

Associated Expenses. When reporting expenditures for an event such as a banquet, you must include under “food and beverages” all the other expenditures you made to prepare and present the food and beverages, such as the room rental, flowers, printing costs, and name badges. Ethics Advisory Opinions Nos. 136119 (1993).

Apportioning Expenditures. If you make a lobby expenditure for a group that includes state officers and employees as well as other people and you cannot reasonably ascertain the exact amount spent on each person, you should apportion the lobby expenditures in accordance with the total number of persons present. Gov’t Code § 305.0062(d).

Allocating to More Than One Category. When a particular lobby expenditure includes expenses categorized under more than one reporting category (for example, a payment to a hotel for “food and beverages” as well as “lodging”), or when a particular category of lobby expenditure is attributable to more than one beneficiary (for example, food and beverages served to a senator and members of the senator’s family), the expenditures should be allocated between the appropriate reporting categories. Ethics Advisory Opinions Nos. 9129 (1992).

Amount of Lobby Expenditure. It is easy to determine the amount of most lobby expenditures, such as the cost of a meal in a restaurant or of a gift purchased at a store. When the lobby expenditure consists of something that is created or assembled specifically for lobby purposes, the expenditure for reporting purposes is the greater of the “fair market value” or the actual cost of producing the item. Ethics Advisory Opinion No. 67 (1992).

Double Reporting. Do not double report expenditures or compensation and reimbursement.

Attributing Expenditures. On a lobby activity report a lobby expenditure for food and beverages is attributed to the person who consumes the food or beverage; an expenditure for entertainment, transportation, or lodging is attributed to the person for whom admission, transportation, or lodging expenses are paid; and an expenditure for a gift, award, or memento is attributed to the recipient of the item. Gov’t Code § 305.0062(b).

Events to Which All Legislators Are Invited. Lobby expenditures made for an event to which all members of the legislature are invited are reported only under the specific category for such expenditures and are not included in any other category or on a detailed report. As long as all the members of the legislature are invited, it does not matter how many legislators actually attend the event. Gov’t Code § 305.0062(d).

Lobby Expenditure or Political Contribution? Sometimes questions arise as to whether a particular expenditure is a political contribution or a lobby expenditure. If an expenditure is required to be reported under the lobby law, it is by definition not a political contribution and is therefore not regulated or reported as a political contribution. Elec. Code § 251.001(2)(B); Ethics Advisory Opinion No. 46 (1992).

Information provided by Texas Ethics Commission