Office of the City Clerk Office of the City Clerk
Advisory Opinions
 

ADVISORY OPINION 2009-1

FACTS

The New York City Administrative Code (“Administrative Code”) §3-216 requires that lobbyists obligated to file a statement of registration also file periodic reports detailing the nature of their lobbying activities.  Section 3-216 requires that a lobbyist report his or her name and address and “the compensation paid or owed to the lobbyist . . . .”  Ad. Code §3-216(b)(1), (b)(5)(i).  The Administrative Code requires lobbyists and clients to report the same information on annual reports.  See Ad. Code §3-217(a), (c)(1), (c)(2), (c)(5)(i).

In an advisory opinion issued in the 1980s, the Office of the City Clerk (the “City Clerk”) opined that the language in sections 3-216(b)(5)(i) and 3-217(c)(5)(i) required lobbyists to report the names of their associates and other employees engaged in lobbying, as well as the portions of their salaries attributable to lobbying.  See Advisory Opinion 1988-1.  In Advisory Opinion 1988-1, the City Clerk stated that “the principal lobbyist must report on the periodic and annual report forms the names of associates and other employees who engage in lobbying and that portion of their salaries attributable to lobbying, whether or not the funds used to pay such salaries can be directly traced to funds paid to the principal lobbyist.”  The City Clerk’s Advisory Opinion relied upon a reading of section 3-216, which states that the periodic report shall contain “the compensation paid or owed to the lobbyist . . . .”  Ad. Code §3-216(b)(5)(i).  As the definition of “lobbyist” in section 3-211 includes both persons and organizations, the requirement in section 3-216(b)(5)(i) of the Administrative Code was read to apply to employees and associates of lobbying organizations.  See Ad. Code §3-211(a).  The statute’s requirement that expenses paid for salaries other than that of the lobbyist be listed in the aggregate, see Ad. Code §3-216(b)(5)(iv), was also cited in support of the City Clerk’s opinion that subparagraph (i) required reporting of the individual salaries of associates and employees attributable to lobbying.

ISSUE

Whether the Administrative Code requires the reporting of the salary or compensation paid by lobbying organizations to lobbyists who are employed by, or associated with, these organizations?

DISCUSSION

The policies underlying the registration and reporting requirements are to disclose the compensation clients are paying lobbyists.  Such disclosure aims to make more transparent the possible influences at work on governmental decision-makers.  When an organization reports the compensation it has received from a client to engage in lobbying, the report serves to promote transparency regarding the efforts a client is expending on lobbying.  Reporting salaries of associates and employees of an organization does not substantially enhance the achievement of this goal.

Sections 3-211(a) and 3-216(b)(5)(i) of the Administrative Code also support this conclusion.  The definition of “lobbyist” includes “every person or organization retained, employed or designated by any client to engage in lobbying.”  Ad. Code §3-211(a).  When a client retains a lobbying organization to engage in lobbying on its behalf, the client is retaining, and compensating, the organization.  The employees-who-lobby or associates-who-lobby work for the lobbying organization, and are generally not retained in their individual capacities by the client.  It is therefore reasonable to conclude that section 3-216(b)(5)(i), which requires the reporting of “the compensation paid or owed to the lobbyist,” is satisfied when the lobbying organization reports the compensation it was paid or is owed.   

The State lobbying law defines the term “lobbyist” in the same manner as the City’s law.  See Legislative Law §1-c (a) (“‘lobbyist’ shall mean every person or organization retained, employed or designated by any client to engage in lobbying”).  The interpretation given by the New York State Commission on Public Integrity also provides guidance on the question.  The Guidelines to the New York State Lobbying Act explain that the requirement that the bi-monthly report contain “the name, address and telephone number of the lobbyist;” see Legislative Law §1-h(b)(1), requires the inclusion of “the names of all employees who have engaged in lobbying on behalf of their employer, except that the name of any such employee shall not be disclosed if that person has registered separately as lobbyist for the same client or employer”.  http://www.nyintegrity.org/law/lob/guidelines.html at §1-h.  In this manner, the Guidelines distinguish between the lobbyist, which may be an organization, and the employees of such organization who have engaged in lobbying.  Although the Guidelines specify that the names of employees of the lobbyist who have engaged in lobbying must be listed, it makes no comparable specification when discussing the reporting of compensation.  Rather, the Guidelines state that: “[r]eportable compensation shall mean and include any salary, fee, gift, payment, benefit, loan, advance, or any other thing of value paid, owed, given, or promised to the lobbyist by the client or employer for lobbying.  For reporting purposes, “Reportable Compensation” shall include any such compensation paid or owed to the lobbyist for the purpose of lobbying.  All reportable compensation in any form must be recorded during the calendar year when it was accrued.” Id. at §1-h.  Thus, when the lobbyist is an organization, the lobbyist will report its name, as well as the names of those employees engaged in lobbying, and will report the compensation the organization has or will receive from its client.  In contrast, when the lobbyist is an employee of an organization, and the organization is the client, the lobbyist will report the salary, or other form of compensation, he or she receives from the organization for his or her lobbying activities. 

As the State’s and City’s reporting requirements are very similar, it is valuable to have a uniform approach to both regulatory systems.  In fact, recent amendments to the City’s lobbying law evinced an interest in aligning the City’s reporting requirement with those of the State’s lobbying law.  See, e.g.,  Ad. Code §3-216 (a)(1).  For example, the City has adopted the State’s bi-monthly reporting requirement cycle in place of its quarterly reporting cycle.  See 51 R.C.N.Y. §1-05.

CONCLUSION

To summarize, a lobbying organization that is required to file a periodic report pursuant to section 3-216 of the Administrative Code should report its name, the names of those employees engaged in lobbying and the compensation it is paid or owed.  The City Clerk will no longer require that a lobbying organization report the salaries or other forms of compensation received by its employees-who-lobby.  However, for an organization that files a statement of registration as a “lobbyist/client”, meaning that it has an employee or employees who lobby on the organization’s behalf, the organization’s periodic reports must continue to list separately (by individual employee) the compensation attributable to lobbying paid or owed to its employees-who-lobby.

 

 

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