The importance of understanding and following the Texas lobby laws is underscored by examining the consequences. There is much more than bad headlines at stake…
The bulk of the statutory requirements and rules relating to lobbying are found in Chapter 305 of the Government Code Act (the Lobby Law). With limited exceptions, violations of any of the provisions of the Lobby Law are subject to fines at the Texas Ethics Commission, and in one instance (violation of the conflict-of-interest statute) could result in the prohibition from operating as a lobbyist for up to two years. Also, with limited exceptions, violation of any of the provisions of the Lobby Law carry a criminal penalty (Class A, the most serious misdemeanor level) in addition to the sanctions which may be imposed by the Commission, meaning that any violation could potentially generate a complaint from the Commission or from your least favorite competitors to the County Attorney. The violation of one provision of Chapter 305 (the prohibition on lobbying on a contingency, which applies to both lobbyists and non-lobbyists) is a felony.
That’s the easy part. Recognize that any choice to not accurately or fully report required information to the Commission, or to ignore prohibitions established in the law and rules, might subject you to criminal fines and jail time.
Problem: Felony. District Attorney. Grand Jury. Bad.
Answer: Register and report if you communicate. Even if you are not sure you really have to.
(a) A person commits an offense if the person intentionally or knowingly violates a provision of this chapter other than Section 305.022 or 305.028. An offense under this subsection is a Class A misdemeanor.
(b) A person commits an offense if the person intentionally or knowingly violates Section 305.022. An offense under this subsection is a felony of the third degree.
(d) This chapter does not affect the criminal responsibility of a person under the state laws relating to perjury.
(e) This section does not prohibit the commission from imposing a civil penalty for a violation.
After a criminal conviction for an offense under Chapter 36 of the Penal Code or under Chapter 305, the commission may deny, suspend, or revoke the registration of a person required to be registered under Chapter 305.
In addition to the criminal penalties prescribed by Section 305.031, a person who receives compensation or reimbursement or makes an expenditure for engaging in direct communication to influence legislation or administrative action and who fails to file a registration form or activities report required to be filed under this chapter shall pay a civil penalty in an amount determined by commission rule, but not to exceed an amount equal to three times the compensation, reimbursement, or expenditure.