Kansas State University Overview of Federal Lobbying and Ethics Rules and Regulations
Congress passed the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act (HLOGA) in September 2007. The goal of this law is to shed more light on the role of lobbyists in influencing federal legislation.
This federal law and Congressional Ethics Rules set by the House and Senate impose requirements on private organizations, lobbyists, and lobbyist employers. Detailed reporting by the Kansas State Office of Governmental Relations lobbying efforts and expenditures, is required. It is essential that members of the university community understand and advise the Office of Governmental Relations if their activities with the Federal government should be taken into account when the university files its required reports. Additionally, the reports require Kansas State University to certify that affected members of its community are familiar with and understand these rules.
How do these standards apply to your federal government–related activities?
The university is required to report in detail about federal lobbying activities. If you are contacting any of the following covered officials on behalf of Kansas State University, then your contact may be reportable as a lobbying contact by Kansas State:
- Any member of Congress or their staffs
- Political appointees in federal agencies (Schedule C employees and above)
- Members of the uniformed service at Pay Grade 0-7 and above (Brigadier General or Rear Admiral and above)
Kansas State is therefore requiring any member of the community, before making a lobbying contact on behalf of Kansas State, to notify and receive approval from the Office of Governmental Relations.
These regulations relate to lobbying contacts (in person, phone call, email, text, etc.) with any covered officials, and the cost of that contact (travel, preparation time, printing, etc.) must be reported as a lobbying expenditure.
Many contacts with executive branch agencies will not trigger the reporting requirements because only contacts with political appointees (Schedule C employees) need to be reported. (For example, a Kansas State researcher dealing with a career agency grant official on the details of a grant to the university would not be reportable. If the researcher lobbies Congress for the earmarked grant that would be reportable.)
You must submit a completed Federal Lobbying Contact and Expense Reporting Form after each contact. Information on this form will be used to complete the University’s quarterly Federal Lobbying report obligation.
The Kansas State University Federal Official Contact Procedure and the law and regulations do not impact your ability to lobby Members of Congress on matters of personal or professional association interest. Kansas State is not required to report information on contacts that you make on behalf of your professional associations if you are clear that you are not representing the interests of Kansas State University. (For example, you travel to Washington, D.C., to participate in your professional association’s “Capitol Hill Day” advocacy program. You speak to your Representative and Senators about the organization’s federal agenda for that year. As this visit is not conducted on behalf of Kansas State, your participation in this advocacy does not require reporting or approval from the University.)
If you have any questions regarding whether this legislation applies to your activities or whether you are acting in a personal or official capacity, please contact Sue Peterson, Director of Governmental Relations email@example.com, 785-532-6227.
Honest Leadership and Open Government Act (HLOGA) Compliance Tips
- Do I intend to lobby congressional or federal agency officials? If yes, proceed to #2. If no, the HLOGA does not apply—state and local officials are not covered by this legislation.
- Is my visit to discuss a personal or professional association issue unrelated to Kanas State University? If yes, there are no HLOGA ramifications, as long as you make it clear that you are not contacting them on behalf of Kansas State University. Enjoy your visit! If no (the visit is as an agent for Kansas State), proceed to #3.
- Have I received approval to lobby/represent Kansas State’s interests on this matter? Am I complying with the Kansas State procedure for federal contacts and reporting my practices? If yes, enjoy the trip! If no, please contact Sue Peterson, Director of Governmental Relations firstname.lastname@example.org, 785-532-6227.
Summary of HLOGA and Ethics Rule Changes
The HLOGA and Ethics Rules require lobbyists to follow certain regulations and, where appropriate, to disclose and certify compliance with those provisions. The legislation:
Lobbying Disclosure Act Registration and Reporting: As a lobbyist employer, the university must file quarterly lobbying disclosure reports identifying their lobbyists and detailing issues lobbied and congressional and executive branch agencies contacted. This requirement includes more detailed reporting on coalitions and associations in which Kansas State may be a participant. The definition of a lobbying contact is essentially any written, oral or electronic request to a covered official to take or not take some action. It is important to understand that your contact, and all related expenses, will need to be reported even though you may not meet the threshold for being listed as a lobbyist for Kansas State. Any individual representing the interests of Kansas State University to Members of Congress, congressional staff, military personnel about 0-7 pay grade, and political appointees in the executive branch (Schedule C employees) will need to comply with the Kansas State University Federal Official Contact Procedure and the required reporting under HLOGA and ethics rules.
Semiannual Disclosure: Lobbyists and lobbyist employers file semiannual reports detailing their political contributions made to, or for the benefit of, covered legislative and executive branch officials. The reports must also include certifications of compliance with the House and Senate gift rules. If you are not a lobbyist, you do not have to file a report. Unless you work in government relations, even if you make a lobbying contact on behalf of Kansas State, you are not likely to be considered a lobbyist (since you will not meet the threshold) and thus will not be required to file this report yourself. As a registered lobbying organization, Kansas State will have to report on your lobbying contact.
Gifts, Events, and Travel Reform: HLOGA governs gift-giving, event attendance, and travel by Members of Congress, officers, and employees. As a general rule, under the law a Member, officer, or employee may not knowingly accept a gift from a registered lobbyist or a private entity that retains or employs a registered lobbyist. Some exemptions may apply. Please contact the Governmental Relations Office at 785-532-6227 before making any gift or donation to any covered officials.
Travel Restrictions: The legislation imposes restrictions for privately sponsored travel. The law also prohibits lobbyists from planning, organizing, arranging, or requesting travel or accompanying House Members or staff on a trip unless the trip is sponsored by the university. House Members are prohibited from accepting air trips on private aircraft. Senate Members and employees may fly on a private jet if they pay a pro rata share of the charter fee.
Stricter Penalties: The legislation imposes stricter penalties on organizations and individuals that fail to comply with these laws and regulations. The civil penalties are $200,000, and criminal penalties of up to five years.
Congressional Process Changes: Under the law, there are additional disclosure requirements for organizations seeking congressional earmarks through the appropriations process.