Frequently Asked Questions

U.S. Federal Lobbying

Generally, any attempt to influence the decision-making process of government employees on legislation, rule-making, or other government business.

Lobbying activities include:

  • Strategizing to impact the outcome of pending legislation or rule-making
  • Preparing draft legislation
  • Participating in meetings or calls - internal, with trade associations, and/or with other companies - to discuss positions and advocacy efforts (strategizing)
  • Communications (phone calls, meetings, emails, letters) with covered officials

Among the exceptions are:

  • Responding to a Federal Register Notice, public notice; comment period
  • Providing a written response to a request for information from an agency
  • Testifying at a public hearing, and preparing the testimony
  • The President
  • The Vice President
  • Officers and employees of the Executive Office of the President
  • USTR staff at all levels are covered officials
  • Any official serving in an Executive level I through V position
  • Any member of the uniformed services serving at Grade 0-7 or above
  • Schedule C employees (positions of a confidential, policy-determining, policy-making, or policy advocating character).
  • The US Ambassador and members of the Embassy team.
  • The Ambassador is considered a covered official.
  • Certain Embassy staff may be covered based on their position, e.g., Schedule C or higher.
  • View the United States Government Policy and Supporting Positions (Plum Book) here
  • Generally, career staff are not covered.

Senior Executive Service employees and career employees are not covered.

  • Members of Congress and their staff
  • Employees of:
    • elected officers and the leadership staff of either House of Congress;
    • a joint committee of Congress
    • a working group or caucus organized to provide legislative services or other assistance to Members of Congress; and
    • certain other legislative branch employees and officers

If you're an individual that has made at least two contacts with legislative or executive branch officials during your time with the company (not just in a specific calendar quarter) and spend more than 20% of your time on lobbying activities during the calendar quarter, you are required to register as a lobbyist.

Yes. The value of any company's employees' time and expenses on activities that meet the LDA definition of lobbying must be included in the aggregate expense number reported by the company.

If your intent is to influence the U.S. official(s) in hopes of asking him/her to lobby foreign counterparts, based on U.S. policy matters, the activity would be considered reportable lobbying activity under the LDA.

If your intent is to influence the U.S. official(s) in hopes of asking him/her to lobby foreign counterparts, not based on U.S. policy matters, the activity would not be considered reportable lobbying activity under LDA.

For example:

  • Congressional delegation visits to foreign markets (i.e. localAmCham group meeting with a Congressional staffer or Member of Congress).

  • This is considered reportable lobbying activity underLDA if you are meeting Members of Congress and staff on US matters, regardless of what country the activity takes place.

  • Participation in AmCham Washington door knock visits—group meetings with Members of Congress and/or their staffs on multiple issues US companies.

  • This is considered reportable lobbying activity under LDA if you are meeting Members of Congress and staff on US matters.

U.S. State and Local Lobbying

Generally, any attempt to influence the decision-making process of government employees on legislation, rule-making, or other government business may be considered lobbying. Each state and municipality defines thresholds differently. Something as simple as sending a birthday card to an official may be considered lobbying in one state, but not in another.

State and local laws vary greatly. Before you make contact with an employee of a state or local government, you should contact the applicable regulatory agency office (or your compliance professional) to understand the lobbying definitions, and registration and disclosure thresholds. You should also inquire as to any applicable restrictions.

Contributions

Anything of monetary or in-kind value, e.g., gift, loan, advance, deposit of money, payment for or rendering of services, made for political purposes.

The contributor must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident alien (green card holder). Foreign nationals are prohibited from making contributions either directly or indirectly.

Corporations are prohibited from making corporate political contributions to incumbents or candidates for U.S. Federal office.

Qualified individuals may contribute up to $2,700.00 per election cycle in races for the U.S. Senate, U.S. House or U.S. President.

Qualified individuals may contribute up to:

  • $33,400.00 per calendar year to the general account

  • $100,200.00 per calendar year to the building account

  • $100,200.00 per calendar year to the recount account

  • $100,200.00 per calendar year to the RNC and/or DNC convention accounts

The national party committees are defined as the:

  • Republican National Committee (RNC)

  • Democratic National Committee (DNC)

  • National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC)

  • Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC)

  • National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC)

  • Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC)

Each limit is separate for each account and each recipient committee.

A married couple each have separate contribution limits. In the event of a joint account, the individual making the contribution must sign the check. If the contribution is from both individuals, then the check must have signatures from both contributors.

No, consultants and/or sole proprietors are prohibited from making contributions from personal or business funds.

No.

Yes, as long as you are not compensated. If you are compensated, it may only be from the committee for which you’re volunteering. Compensation from any other source may be considered a contribution and/or may be prohibited.

Yes, however, please note that expenses on behalf of a federal candidate are limited to $1,000.00 per election, and $2,000.00 per year on behalf of a federal political party.

Gifts and Entertainment

Anything of monetary or in-kind value, e.g., gift, meals, entertainment, travel, etc.

Generally, gifts are outright prohibited for U.S. Federal Legislative and Executive Branch employees unless an exemption can be applied.

For Congressional employees, which includes Members and staff, exemption include, but are not limited to:

  • Food of nominal value (reception exception)
  • Widely attended events: should be 25 or more individuals in attendance from a diverse population
  • Charity event (primary purpose to raise funds for a 501(c)(3)
  • Gifts given on the basis of a personal friendship*
  • Home district products
  • Items of nominal value
  • Fundraising or campaign events
  • Informational materials
  • Commemorative items

For Executive Branch Career Employees:

  • Modest refreshments which are not part of a meal
  • Items of little intrinsic value such as greeting cards, or plaques and certificates intended solely for presentation
  • Personal friendship*
  • Widely attended events (must have prior approval from agency ethics office)
  • Social invitations

For Executive Branch Political Appointees:

  • The following employees may NOT accept gifts from registered lobbyists, registrants or its employees under the Federal Lobbying Disclosure Act (LDA)
  • Non-Career Presidential or Vice Presidential Appointees
  • Non-Career Senior Executive Service employees
  • Schedule C employees
  • Exceptions:
    • Cup of coffee or modest refreshment
    • Items of little intrinsic value such as greeting cards
    • Personal friendship*

      * To use the personal friendship exemption you should be able to demonstrate a history of 3 or more years of reciprocity between you and the government employee, which includes, but is not limited to social interactions that are not business related. This might include dinners, church functions, sports outings, events involving kids or the family, such as birthday parties.

State and local gift rules vary greatly from outright prohibitions for lobbyists or government contractors, to low limits such as $3.00. Always check the limits/restrictions before providing any government employee a gift/meal. Failure to comply with the applicable law(s) could result in civil and/or criminal penalties, which may include monetary fines and possible jail time.