Professional Lobbyists and Lobbying Organizations
The federal government and each state has its own regulations for paid lobbyists—or for those who are acting on behalf of a third party. At the federal level, domestic federal lobbyist are regulated by the Lobbying Disclosure Act, 2 U.S.C. § 1605.
State Lobbying Regulations
Every state and the District of Columbia has some kind of official registration for lobbyists. The registration requirements vary from simply requiring the lobbyist’s name and professional information to requiring a recent photo to requiring fees. Some states don’t require that a lobbyist receive compensation in order to qualify as a lobbyist. However, these states all seem to have exemptions for those who lobby and receive only reimbursement expenses. It is important that anyone who is seeking to become an activist read the relevant state statutes to be sure he or she is following state law. You will be able to find this information on the relevant state web page—usually run by the secretary of state or the state board of elections.
Why You Are Not a Professional Lobbyist
Inevitably questions arise from activists who lobby as volunteers for organizations and on behalf of issues they care about on a regular basis about whether they have accidentally become professional lobbyists. In almost every case, the answer is no. In order to be a professional lobbyist and be required to register with the federal government and most state governments as such, you must be lobbying for compensation as such, you must be lobbying for compensation on behalf of clients. Volunteers do no qualify no matter how many trips they make to a legislator or to Washington, DC. If you are a private citizen seeking to talk to your public official about an issue or public policy of concern to you, you have nothing to worry about.