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Are You a Lobbyist? How to Know If You Must Register

By Andrew Chow, Esq. | Last updated on

Are you a lobbyist? More than 12,000 people are, according to a tally of registered lobbyists by the Center for Responsive Politics -- but there may be thousands more unregistered influence-peddlers, thanks to the language of the law.

In fact, as many as 90,000 people may be engaged in lobbying, one political expert told Reuters. "It's a much bigger industry than the federal registry of lobbyists shows," he said.

The Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995, amended in 2007, sets forth a three-prong test to determine whether you must register as a lobbyist. And a new Reuters quiz tests your application of those rules.

You can check out the Reuters "lobbying quotient (LQ)" quiz by clicking here. But first, a quick review of the federal lobbying law.

The Lobbying Disclosure Act requires you to register as a lobbyist if you meet all three of the following conditions:

1. You make more than $3,000 in income from lobbying over a three-month period.

2. You have more than one lobbying contact.

3. You spend more than 20% of your time lobbying for a single client over a three-month period.

Much debate surrounds the third prong of the lobbying test. For example, a person who makes $1 million a year from lobbying, and has multiple lobbying contacts, would not have to register as a lobbyist if no single client takes up more than 20% of his time, The New York Times points out.

That's why an American Bar Association task force wants to do away with the 20% rule, The Times reports. (You can read the ABA task force report by clicking here.)

In addition to federal lobbying laws, states and even some local jurisdictions also require lobbyists to register. If you have questions about what's required where you live, you may want to check with an attorney versed in political law about your legal status as a lobbyist.

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