General News

Common Political Activities Compliance Violations


There is not much glam or glitz in political activities compliance work. What exactly is it, anyway? We track campaign finance & gift law legislation, and file lobbying disclosure reports. There is a long list of rules and regulations surrounding the lobbying process, thus there are many ways anyone involved in trying to influence legislative policy can inadvertently break the law.

While regulations vary from state to state, as well as on the Federal level, we have compiled a list of typical government relations compliance violations. Whether inadvertently or not, noncompliance is breaking the law. These offenses are punishable by anything from a small fine to multiple years in prison, which is one of many reasons to have a stellar compliance team in place. For more information, contact us at or (202) 591-1737.

Failing to register as a Lobbyist
The most basic form of noncompliance. Every American citizen has the right to walk into his or her elected official’s office and lobby that official on any particular issue. The question is: Did that citizen receive payment in return for the lobbying activity and trigger registration and reporting requirements? If the answer is yes, the person should register as a lobbyist.

Neglecting to file Federal LD-2s
The Federal Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995 requires that every federally registered lobbyist report the amount of time and money expended, and the issues on which they lobbied (i.e., report their lobbying activity). How often? Quarterly.

Neglecting to file Federal LD-203s
In addition to reporting lobbying activity, disclosing certain personal contributions is also a must for federally registered lobbyists. Suppose a lobbyist gives $500.00 to a candidate running for a Federal House seat in Rhode Island? Better report it! How often? Semi-annually.

Violating Gift Laws
The laws and regulations governing gifts to elected, appointed, or covered officials in any level of government are tedious (read: mind-numbing). The limit for Federal government employees is dependent upon which branch (Legislative, Executive or Judicial); which chamber of Congress, whether a legislative branch employee is a Member or a staffer, or whether an executive branch employees is a political appointee or career staff.

Violating procurement lobbying disclosure requirements
Combined government spending for goods and services in the U.S. is between $1.3 and $1.6 trillion annually. A “procurement lobbyist” is anyone who interacts with people responsible for awarding government contracts. Some states require registration and disclosure of the activities undertaken by people and/or companies seeking to do business with state and/or municipal governments.

Failing to adhere to pay-to-play restrictions or prohibitions on political contributions
Similar to procurement lobbying restrictions, these regulations are in place to prevent the exchange of money for political support. If you or your company is submitting a request for proposal to a government entity, make sure you know the state’s pay-to-play restrictions before making any contributions (personally or via your company) to a political campaign. In certain instances, there are limitations, and possibly prohibitions, on contributions by the lobbyists, certain other employees, and sometimes certain family members.

Engaging in any activity that could be considered fraudulent, or attempting to bribe an elected or appointed official
While this may seem straight-forward and obvious, there are many cases of noncompliance with fraud and bribery laws. Most recently, former Gov. Bob McDonnell (R-VA) was found guilty on 11 counts of corrupt behavior; his wife was found guilty on 8 counts. The pair “could now face decades in federal prison,” according to The New York Daily News.