What Type of Lobbying is Allowed
The statutory provisions governing lobbying by agencies using public funds
are found in RCW 42.17.190, subsections (2) through (8), copy attached. This language
sets out, in a fairly convoluted fashion, what agencies may and may not do when
it comes to lobbying the state legislature.
Subsection (2) begins by prohibiting the use of public funds directly or indirectly
for lobbying, absent express legal authority. However, it goes on to say that this
prohibition does not prevent agency personnel from communicating with legislators
at the member's request or from requesting, through proper official channels, necessary
legislative action or funding.
Actually, this need for public officials and employees to use "proper official channels"
has doubtless played a role in the evolution of legislative liaisons. The members
of the legislature have stated pretty clearly that they don't want to see everyone
within an agency who has a pitch to make on a given bill. They've required agencies
to establish a system for communicating with them.
Subsection (3) grants all agencies general authority to lobby using public funds,
but limits that authority to:
The legislature appears
to be saying that it wants employees to refrain from using public funds to discuss
subjects not related to their agency's mission. Further, legislators do not want
to receive "mixed messages" from different individuals within an agency.
- communicating with state officeholders or employees on official agency business;
- advocating only the official position or interests of the agency.
Subsection (3) also prohibits spending public funds, directly or indirectly, for
gifts or campaign contributions. Both terms are broadly defined in law. Suffice
it to say that a gift includes anything worth receiving: meals, beverages, travel
expenses, theater or sporting event tickets, art work, flowers, etc. A campaign
contribution, on the other hand, is anything of value to a campaign, be it a monetary
contribution or an in-kind item or service provided to the campaign.
Initiatives to the Legislature
Subsection (4) prohibits anyone within the public sector from using or authorizing
the use of public facilities in an effort to support or oppose an initiative to
the legislature. The Public Disclosure Commission (PDC) has interpreted this prohibition
as applying only during an initiative's signature-gathering phase. Once an initiative
is certified by the Secretary of State as having received sufficient signatures
and is before the state legislature, it is like any other piece of legislation and
public agencies may lobby the legislature concerning it's passage or defeat.
However, during the signature-gathering phase, the only exceptions to the prohibition
against using public funds to support or oppose an initiative to the legislature
relate to official action by members of an elected body, statements by elected officials
at an open press conference or in response to a specific inquiry, and activities
that are part of the "normal and regular conduct" of the agency; that is, activities
that are specifically authorized by law and that are usual for the agency.
It's safe to say, in general, the only authority a non-elected state official or
employee has to lobby on an initiative to the legislature while it is being circulated
for signatures stems from the normal and regular conduct provision. And, even with
the aid of this provision, agencies are limited to providing objective and balanced
information about the initiative; not advocating passage or defeat of the measure.
(Note that if an initiative to the legislature ends up going before the voters as
a ballot proposition, there are other statutory provisions that prohibit using public
facilities to support or oppose it.)
Reporting Lobbying Costs to PDC
Subsection (5) of RCW 42.17.190 speaks to what information will be reported by state
agencies and other public entities. The report (PDC form L-5) is filed quarterly
by the last day of the month following the end of each calendar quarter. See the
L-5 form for details on what types of expenditures are reportable. The focus is
primarily on identifying persons who lobbied during the quarter, disclosing their
salaries, and showing how much was spent on their travel allowances. There is an
instruction manual to assist agencies in completing the form.
The following activities are not considered reportable lobbying activities:
- Appropriation requests to the Office of Financial Management (OFM); or OFM's requests
to the legislature for funds to support agencies other than itself;
- Recommendations or reports to the legislature in response to a specific legislative
- legally mandated annual or biennial legislative reports;
- communications between or within state agencies or between or within local agencies;
- telephone conversations, preparation of correspondence or preparation or adoption
of policy positions;
- In-person lobbying on behalf of the agency amounting to no more than four days or
parts thereof during any three month period (that's an aggregate total for everyone
who lobbies on behalf of the agency), assuming no more than $15 of non-public money
was spent, in total, on state officeholders and staff;
- all in-person lobbying done by an elected official, except if the official spends
over $15 of non-public money on state officeholders or staff; and
- all attempts to influence federal or local legislation.
Without specific authority elsewhere in law, the only lobbying agencies receiving
public funds may undertake is:
No grass roots lobbying
campaigns aimed at the general public. No campaign contributions with taxpayer funds.
And, no gifts paid for with public dollars.
- communicating with legislators at the member's request;
- requesting necessary legislative action or appropriations through proper official
- providing information to legislators or staff on matters pertaining to official
agency business; and
- advocating the official position or interests of the agency.
When it comes to reporting, state agencies report only in-person lobbying
conducted by non-elected officials or employees and directed at legislators and
their staff members. This includes time spent testifying at public hearings. And,
in addition, if anyone -- including an elected official -- spends over $15 of non-public
money on behalf of legislators or legislative staff, attach a sheet to the L-5 showing
the spender's name, the source of the funds, the amounts spent, the dates of the
expenditures and the names of the legislators or staff persons on whose behalf the
funds were spent.
Records supporting the information supplied on the reports must be kept for five
The L-5 Report: Each agency will submit one report for any calendar quarter
during which there was reportable lobbying. No lobbying, no report. Reports must
be mailed to PDC by the end of the month following the close of the quarter. First
quarter reports are due on or before April 30.
Lobby & Lobbying:
Each mean "attempting to influence the passage or defeat of any legislation by the
legislature of the state of Washington, or the adoption or rejection of any rule,
standard, rate, or other legislative enactment of any state agency under the state
Administrative Procedure Act, chapter 34.05 RCW.
Legislation: Means "bills,
resolutions, motions, amendments, nomination, and other matters pending or proposed
in either house of the state legislature, and includes any other matter that may
be subject of action by either house or any committee of the legislature and all
bills and resolutions that, having passed both houses, are pending approval by the
governor." [RCW 42.17.020(26)]
Neither 'lobby' or 'lobbying' includes an association's or other organization's
act of communicating with the members of that association or organization." [RCW
Legislation: Means "bills, resolutions, motions, amendments, nomination, and other
matters pending or proposed in either house of the state legislature, and includes
any other matter that may be subject of action by either house or any committee
of the legislature and all bills and resolutions that, having passed both
houses, are pending approval by the governor." [RCW 42.17.020(26)]
RCW 42.17.190 Legislative activities of state agencies, other units of government,
elective officials, employees. (1) The house of representatives and the
senate shall report annually: The total budget; the portion of the total attributed
to staff; and the number of full-time and part-time staff positions by assignment,
with dollar figures as well as number of positions.
(2) Unless authorized by subsection (3) of this section or otherwise expressly authorized
by law, no public funds may be used directly or indirectly for lobbying: PROVIDED,
This does not prevent officers or employees of an agency from communicating with
a member of the legislature on the request of that member; or communicating to the
legislature, through the proper official channels, requests for legislative action
or appropriations which are deemed necessary for the efficient conduct of the public
business or actually made in the proper performance of their official duties: PROVIDED
FURTHER, That this subsection does not apply to the legislative branch.
(3) Any agency, not otherwise expressly authorized by law, may expend public funds
for lobbying, but such lobbying activity shall be limited to (a) providing information
or communicating on matters pertaining to official agency business to any elected
official or officer or employee of any agency or (b) advocating the official position
or interests of the agency to any elected official or officer or employee of any
agency: PROVIDED, That public funds may not be expended as a direct or indirect
gift or campaign contribution to any elected official or officer or employee of
any agency. For the purposes of this subsection, the term "gift" means a voluntary
transfer of any thing of value without consideration of equal or greater value,
but does not include informational material transferred for the sole purpose of
informing the recipient about matters pertaining to official agency business. This
section does not permit the printing of a state publication which has been otherwise
prohibited by law.
(4) No elective official or any employee of his or her office or any person appointed
to or employed by any public office or agency may use or authorize the use of any
of the facilities of a public office or agency, directly or indirectly, in any effort
to support or oppose an initiative to the legislature. "Facilities of a public office
or agency" has the same meaning as in RCW 42.17.130 and 42.52.180. The provisions
of this subsection shall not apply to the following activities:
(a) Action taken at an open public meeting by members of an elected legislative
body to express a collective decision, or to actually vote upon a motion, proposal,
resolution, order, or ordinance, or to support or oppose an initiative to the legislature
so long as (i) any required notice of the meeting includes the title and number
of the initiative to the legislature, and (ii) members of the legislative body or
members of the public are afforded an approximately equal opportunity for the expression
of an opposing view;
(b) A statement by an elected official in support of or in opposition to any initiative
to the legislature at an open press conference or in response to a specific inquiry;
(c) Activities which are part of the normal and regular conduct of the office or
(d) Activities conducted regarding an initiative to the legislature that would be
permitted under RCW 42.17.130 and 42.52.180 if conducted regarding other ballot
(5) Each state agency, county, city, town, municipal corporation, quasi-municipal
corporation, or special purpose district which expends public funds for lobbying
shall file with the commission, except as exempted by (d) of this subsection, quarterly
statements providing the following information for the quarter just completed:
(a) The name of the agency filing the statement;
(b) The name, title, and job description and salary of each elected official, officer,
or employee who lobbied, a general description of the nature of the lobbying, and
the proportionate amount of time spent on the lobbying;
(c) A listing of expenditures incurred by the agency for lobbying including but
not limited to travel, consultant or other special contractual services, and brochures
and other publications, the principal purpose of which is to influence legislation;
(d) For purposes of this subsection the term "lobbying" does not include:
(i) Requests for appropriations by a state agency to the office of financial management
pursuant to chapter 43.88 RCW nor requests by the office of financial management
to the legislature for appropriations other than its own agency budget requests;
(ii) Recommendations or reports to the legislature in response to a legislative
request expressly requesting or directing a specific study, recommendation, or report
by an agency on a particular subject;
(iii) Official reports including recommendations submitted to the legislature on
an annual or biennial basis by a state agency as required by law;
(iv) Requests, recommendations, or other communication between or within state agencies
or between or within local agencies;
(v) Any other lobbying to the extent that it includes:
(A) Telephone conversations or preparation of written correspondence;
(B) In-person lobbying on behalf of an agency of no more than four days or parts
thereof during any three-month period by officers or employees of that agency and
in-person lobbying by any elected official of such agency on behalf of such agency
or in connection with the powers, duties, or compensation of such official: PROVIDED,
That the total expenditures of nonpublic funds made in connection with such lobbying
for or on behalf of any one or more members of the legislature or state elected
officials or public officers or employees of the state of Washington do not exceed
fifteen dollars for any three-month period: PROVIDED FURTHER, That the exemption
under this subsection is in addition to the exemption provided in (A) of this subsection;
(C) Preparation or adoption of policy positions.
The statements shall be in the form and the manner prescribed by the commission
and shall be filed within one month after the end of the quarter covered by the
(6) In lieu of reporting under subsection (5) of this section any county, city,
town, municipal corporation, quasi municipal corporation, or special purpose district
may determine and so notify the public disclosure commission, that elected officials,
officers, or employees who on behalf of any such local agency engage in lobbying
reportable under subsection (5) of this section shall register and report such reportable
lobbying in the same manner as a lobbyist who is required to register and report
under RCW 42.17.150 and 42.17.170. Each such local agency shall report as a lobbyist
employer pursuant to RCW 42.17.180.
(7) The provisions of this section do not relieve any elected official or officer
or employee of an agency from complying with other provisions of this chapter, if
such elected official, officer, or employee is not otherwise exempted.
(8) The purpose of this section is to require each state agency and certain local
agencies to report the identities of those persons who lobby on behalf of the agency
for compensation, together with certain separately identifiable and measurable expenditures
of an agency's funds for that purpose. This section shall be reasonably construed
to accomplish that purpose and not to require any agency to report any of its general
overhead cost or any other costs which relate only indirectly or incidentally to
lobbying or which are equally attributable to or inseparable from nonlobbying activities
of the agency.
The public disclosure commission may adopt rules clarifying and implementing this
legislative interpretation and policy.[1995 c 397 § 7; 1986 c 239 § 1; 1979 ex.s.
c 265 § 1; 1977 ex.s. c 313 § 6; 1975 1st ex.s. c 294 § 12; 1973 c 1 § 19 (Initiative
Measure No. 276, approved November 7, 1972).]
Public Agency Lobbying Administrative Rules
WAC 390-20-052 Application of RCW 42.17.190--Reports of Agency Lobbying.
Pursuant to the authority granted in RCW 42.17.190(8), the commission adopts the
following interpretations regarding the reporting of lobbying by public agencies
pursuant to RCW 42.17.190:
(1) The phrase "in-person lobbying" contained in RCW 42.17.190(5)(d)(v)(B) includes
activity which is intended to influence the passage or defeat of legislation, such
as testifying at public hearings, but does not include activity which is not intended
to influence legislation, such as attending a hearing merely to monitor or observe
testimony and debate.
(2) The phrase "a legislative request" contained in RCW 42.17.190 (5)(d)(ii) includes
an oral request from a member of the legislature or its staff.
(3) (a) When any subagency (i.e. department, bureau, board, commission or agency)
within a state agency, county, city, town, municipal corporation, quasi-municipal
corporation or special purpose district (i.e. primary agency) has independent authority
to expend public funds for lobbying, that subagency may file a separate L-5 reporting
the information required by RCW 42.17.190(5).
(b) When a subagency elects to file its own, separate L-5, it shall notify the commission
and the administrative head of the primary agency of its intentions in writing.
The primary agency shall not thereafter include information for the subagency in
its L-5, and shall have no legal obligation for the filings of the subagency.
(4) Pursuant to RCW 42.17.190(6), certain local agencies may elect to have lobbying
activity on their behalf reported by their elected officials, officers and employees
in the same manner as lobbyists who register and report under RCW 42.17.150 and
(a) Whenever such a local agency makes such an election, it shall provide the commission
with a written notice.
(b) After such an election, those who lobby on behalf of such local agency shall
register and report all lobbying activity reportable under RCW 42.17.190(5) in the
same manner as lobbyists who are required to register and report under RCW 42.17.150
and 42.17.170. Such a local agency shall report pursuant to RCW 42.17.180.
(c) In order to terminate such an election, such a local agency shall provide the
commission with a written notice and it shall report pursuant to RCW 42.17.190(5)
(d) The exemptions from reportable lobbying activity contained in RCW 42.17.190(5)(d)
apply to all agencies, whether or not they have exercised the election to report
in the same manner as lobbyists who report under RCW 42.17.150, 42.17.170 and 42.17.180.
The exemptions contained in RCW 42.17.160(1), (4) and (5) do not apply to any agency.
(5) Unless an agency has elected to report its lobbying pursuant to RCW 42.17.190(6)
and subsection (3) of this section, an agency shall include the reportable lobbying
activity on its behalf by an elected official in its quarterly report. Such an elected
official does not file any separate report of that activity.
(6) Reportable in-person lobbying by elected officials, officers and employees:
(a) An elected official does not engage in reportable in-person lobbying on behalf
of this agency unless and until that elected official has expended in excess of
fifteen dollars of nonpublic funds in connection with such lobbying for or on behalf
of any one or more members of the legislature or state elected officials or public
officers or employees of the state of Washington during any three-month period as
provided in RCW 42.17.190(5)(d)(v)(B).
(b) Other officers and employees do not engage in reportable in-person lobbying
on behalf of their agency unless and until they have, in the aggregate, expended
in excess of fifteen dollars of nonpublic funds in connection with such lobbying
for or on behalf of any one or more members of the legislature or state elected
officials or public officers or employees of the state of Washington or they have,
in the aggregate, engaged in such lobbying for more than four days or parts thereof
during any three month period as provided in RCW 42.17.190(5)(d)(v)(B).
(c) When limits in (a) or (b) of this subsection have been exceeded, the agency
shall report such elected official, officer, or employee as a "person who lobbied
this quarter" on the front of PDC Form L-5 and include a listing of those excess
expenditures as noted on that form. (WSR 94-11-016, filed 5/5/94; WSR 91-16-072,
filed 8/2/91; Order 85-05, filed 11/26/85; Order 80-01, filed 1/17/80.)
WAC 390-20-054 Agency Lobbying--Reporting of Lobbying by Independent Contractors.
(1) An independent contractor who is retained to lobby on behalf of an agency shall
register and report as a lobbyist pursuant to RCW 42.17.150 and 42.17.170.
(2) An agency which retains an independent contractor as a lobbyist and reports
all of its expenditures in connection therewith pursuant to RCW 42.17.190 shall
not be obligated to file a report pursuant to RCW 42.17.180 with regard to that
lobbyist. (Order 81-01, filed 3/26/81.)