Lobbying Law and Government Ethics
The United States has a complex and evolving patchwork of laws and regulations that can transform a business or an individual into a lobbyist or client of a lobbyist with little or no warning. This legal regime extends beyond traditional efforts to influence state, local and federal government, and has implications for a broad range of activities, including government procurements, “grass roots” advocacy, membership in trade organizations, the rendering of legal and other professional services, and participation in campaigns. Becoming subject to these laws may mean having to register with a government entity on relatively short notice, to pay statutory fees, and to file periodic public reports that include extensive financial and other substantive disclosures; routine or targeted government audits may follow. Lobbying and ethics laws and regulations not only vary from state to state, but may also vary from one city or county to another within a single state. A failure to comply can result in civil and criminal penalties and debarment as well as the negative publicity and reputational harm that accompanies the failure to comply with ethics-related mandates. Often such issues, if not settled, end up in administrative proceedings or court.
Jenner & Block counsels clients to help them navigate and comply with lobbying and ethics laws and regulations—including federal laws and regulations as well as the myriad state and local laws and regulations. Relatedly, we guide clients through the thicket of campaign finance restrictions that more and more governments impose on lobbyists as well as the gift restrictions and related ethics rules that apply to those who lobby public officials or otherwise engage in public advocacy, desire to do business with or already have business before government, or are former public officers. More specifically, the firm:
- Analyzes a client’s activities to determine whether it is lobbying or engaging in other regulated conduct and which individuals within the client’s company or organization may be personally subject to lobbying or ethics laws;
- Works with clients, if appropriate, to design and implement alternatives to engaging in regulated lobbying activity while complying with the law;
- Assists with, or fully undertakes on a client’s behalf, complying with all regulatory mandates—including initial registration, periodic filings and other legal requirements;
- Keeps clients abreast of the latest changes in laws and regulations at the federal, state and local level;
- Advises clients on proactive measures to comply with lobbying and ethics laws, including educating and training staff, implementing best practices, and developing comprehensive internal controls to ensure compliance; and
- Represents clients in audits and, if the need arises, in all disputed proceedings at the administrative, trial and appellate levels.