In 1972, the people of Washington State declared that lobbying expenditures must be fully disclosed if secrecy in government is to be avoided and public confidence in the fairness of governmental processes is to be enhanced. Today, providing accurate and current information concerning the financing of lobbying in Washington State remains one of the primary purposes of the disclosure law.
The law provides public access to the identity of those who lobby their employers and the nature, magnitude and intensity of the lobbying effort as shown through expenditures. The focus is on money. Citizens who petition their state government -- through personal contact, telephone calls and letters -- without payment of any kind and without spending funds to benefit public officials are not subject to the law. Individuals who are paid to represent an interest are generally subject to registration and reporting. Unpaid individuals who make lobbying expenditures must register, but may not have to file monthly reports (depending on the type of expenditures they make).
For those lobbyist employers who must report, the key to complying lies in keeping detailed records of all funds spent for reportable lobbying activities, whether those funds compensate or support a lobbyist or are used for making contributions or entertaining legislators or other public officials holding state office. Employers need to have their own internal mechanisms for recording and tracking reportable lobbying expenses, and must not rely solely on their lobbyist for maintaining records that will substantiate their reports.
All lobbyist employers, whether experienced or new to the lobbying arena, are strongly encouraged to review these instructions. Accurate reporting, as demanded by the public and reaffirmed by the Legislature and the Commission, cannot occur unless those subject to the law take their reporting requirements seriously.
The person or persons by whom a lobbyist is employed and all persons by whom he or she is compensated for acting as a lobbyist. The term "person" is defined very broadly and includes an individual, partnership, corporation, government, association, political party or any committee or group. Based on these definitions, anyone who pays a lobbyist, reimburses a lobbyist for expenditures, provides funds for the lobbyist's use or furnishes other consideration to or on behalf of a lobbyist, is a lobbyist's employer. A lobbyist includes any person who lobbies either on his own or another's behalf
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.
Neither lobby nor lobbying includes an association’s or other organization’s act of communicating with the members of that association or organization.
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.
Most people who are at all familiar with the disclosure law, realize that lobbying the legislature is a reportable activity. Some may not be aware that reportable lobbying also includes efforts to inform, sway, convince or other influence the action or inaction of legislative staff. Staff recommendations regarding legislation play a significant role in the legislative process. Contacts with legislative staff constitute lobbying. Gift, travel and entertainment expenditures for legislative staffers are reportable.
Lobbying state agencies is sometimes overlooked as being reportable. Many agencies have authority to set rates, establish standards to regulate industries and occupations and adopt rules that become part of the Washington Administrative Code (WAC). Attempting to influence state agencies with respect to the “legislative” functions – setting rules, rates or standards – is lobbying and must be reported.