With the approval of Initiative 276 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. A 2008 survey of registered voters conducted by a University of Washington graduate student found that the policy objectives of I-276 were still important with the most important issues being who is paying lobbyists and having access to that information.
The law seeks to place on the public record the identity of those who lobby state government, their employers and the nature, magnitude and intensity of the effort devoted to lobbying reflected through expenditures. The focus is on money. Citizens who petition their state government – through personal contact, telephone calls, letters and e-mails without payment of any kind and without spending funds to benefit public officials are not subject to the law. Persons who are paid to lobby are generally subject to registration, as are those who make lobbying-related expenditures. The Public Disclosure Commission does not regulate federal or local government lobbying.
For those lobbyists who must register and report under the law, the key to complying is in keeping detailed records of all funds received and spent for lobbying. Once registered, lobbyists file monthly reports of their activity until their registration expires or is terminated. A report must be filed even if the lobbyist did not lobby and therefore has no activity to disclose for a particular month.
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 otherwise 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 realize that contacting state lawmakers with a request to support or oppose specific legislation is a reportable activity. But under state law, there are additional kinds of lobbying that are reportable. Since "legislation" includes "any other matter that may be the subject of action" by the Legislature, lobbying can include contacts about potential legislation as well as efforts to educate legislators about an issue and the organization's role in it. What's more, efforts to inform, sway, convince or otherwise influence the action or inaction of legislative staff are lobbying. Staff recommendations regarding legislation play a significant role in the legislative process, and contacts with and expenditures on 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.