All of us who communicate to influence are lobbying. The fundamental issue is that some forms of communication require you to register under the Texas Lobby Law, Chapter 305 of the Government Code Act, while others do not. The distinction between which activities require registration and which do not is often difficult to ascertain, yet the penalties for violation can be significant.
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.
A person who expends more than $500 in a calendar quarter for certain purposes must register as a lobbyist. Once registered, all lobby expenditures must be reported and fall into several categories. In some cases, you must identify the individual who benefits from a lobby expenditure and provide other details. There are a number of prohibitions and exceptions to be aware of as well.
The lobby law contains a number of restrictions on expenditures by lobbyists, as well as on acceptance of lobby expenditures by state officers, state employees, immediate family and guests of state officers and employees, candidates for state offices, and officers-elect. With limited exceptions, violation of any of the provisions of the Lobby Law carry a criminal penalty.
Conflict of interests
There is a law in Texas that says as a lobbyist you cannot represent lobby clients that have conflicting positions with other lobby clients on the same matter or with persons with whom you are associated. When that situation arises, a lobbyist may continue to represent a client when there is a conflict of interest (as defined in the statute) so long as the lobbyist complies with the conflicts laws.
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.