What Is Lobbying?
The Public Disclosure Commission (PDC) defines lobbying as attempting to influence the passage or defeat of any legislation of the state of Washington (including budget proposals), or the adoption or rejection of state agency rules, standards or rates. Lobbying also includes efforts to block the introduction of unfavorable legislation, as well as efforts to influence the governor’s approval or veto of legislation that has passed both legislative chambers. The most common form of lobbying is in-person contact with state legislators with the objective of influencing their action or inaction on legislation, including the state budget.
Limits On Public Agency Lobbying
Employees of Washington State agencies are permitted to lobby on behalf of the agency using public funds, but their authority is generally limited to communicating with state officeholders and their staff on official agency business, and advocating only the official position or interests of the agency. Western Washington University strives to have strong working relations with state officeholders and to be an informative resource for their work; however, there are limitations for state employees regarding public agency lobbying activities.
For example, state agencies and state employees, including individuals employed by WWU, are prohibited from encouraging citizens and constituencies to contact state legislators for the purposes of supporting university positions on state legislation. Thus, it would be illegal for employees working on behalf of WWU to urge people to “call your legislators” to accomplish a legislative goal for the university.
Additionally, Western employees cannot use university time or resources to engage in partisan political activity, including spending public funds directly or indirectly for campaign contributions. Employees are also prohibited from campaigning for or against a ballot measure, including signature gathering, although they may comment on direct impacts to university programs from the proposed ballot measure.
Washington law also prohibits spending public funds directly or indirectly for gifts to any elected official, officer or employee of a state agency. A gift includes anything of value, such as meals, beverages, leisure travel, theater or sporting event tickets, art work, flowers, etc. However, state agencies may use “non-public” monies to entertain state elected officials and staff under certain conditions and limitations.
Reporting Lobbying Activities
All Washington State agencies, including state universities, must keep detailed records concerning the amount of time employees spend on in-person lobbying, showing what issues were lobbied and what lobbying expenditures were incurred. The Office of Government Relations is designated by Western’s President to compile and complete the university’s quarterly L-5 report to the PDC. The report is to include all lobbying efforts undertook by the university during that calendar quarter and is due by the end of the month following the close of every quarter (DUE: April 30, July 31, October 31 and January 31).
Failure to file complete, accurate and timely L-5 reports may result in enforcement action and a monetary penalty. A state agency director who knowingly fails to file an L-5 when required shall be subject to a personal civil penalty of $100 dollars per statement. A state agency official, officer or employee who is responsible for, or knowingly directs or spends public funds in violation of RCW 42.17A.635(2) or (3) may be personally subject to penalties equal to the amount of public funds spent.
If you have lobbying activity to report, please fill out this online form so that it is included in WWU’s quarterly agency report.
What Lobbying Activities Must Be Reported To The PDC By WWU?
- In-person lobbying conducted by non-elected officials, employees and contract lobbyists that is directed towards state legislators, the governor, and their staffs;
- All costs associated with in-person lobbying activity, including wages and travel expenses;
- Itemization of non-public fund expenditures greater than $15 spent in conjunction with the agency’s lobbying program (i.e., meals, beverages, travel, theater or sporting event tickets, art work, flowers, etc.);
- Expenditures on publications developed primarily in connection with lobbying efforts;
- Expenditures on consultants or contractors employed by the agency to assist in lobbying activities;
- The agency’s quarterly report must disclose the date of lobbying, the name and title of the person engaging in lobbying activity, the subject of the lobbying and all costs associated with lobbying including wages, travel expenses, and relevant entertainment expenses (if applicable).
What Lobbying Activities Are NOT Reportable By WWU?
- Budget requests to the Office of Financial Management;
- Recommendations or reports to the legislature in response to a legislative request;
- Official reports required by law;
- Requests, recommendations, or other communications between or within state agencies;
- Telephone conversations with legislators or legislative staff;
- Monitoring of legislative or agency meetings and hearings;
- Preparation of written or electronic correspondence;
- Preparation or adoption of policy positions within an agency or group of agencies (however, once a position is adopted, further action to advocate in favor of the position may constitute lobbying);
- Attempts to influence the interpretation or application of an existing state rule or policy;
- Expenditures on publications developed primarily for another purpose but distributed incidentally as part of lobbying efforts;
- Expenditures of non-public, personal funds totaling $15 or less made by a lobbyist in connection with his or her in-person lobbying duties to benefit legislators or other state officials or employees;
- In-person lobbying conducted by an elected official on behalf of her or his agency or in connection with her or his powers, unless the official spends more than $15 of non-public money on state officeholders or staff;
- Attempts to influence federal or local legislation.
Questions And How To Report WWU Lobbying Activity
For questions about any of the information above or related lobbying inquiries, please contact:
WWU Assistant Director of Government Relations
Please fill out this online form to report lobbying activity to be included in WWU’s agency lobbying report.