Lobbyist Disclosure Forms
Published: February 2, 2018
Lobbyists are required to file initial registration forms when they have by retained by a new client. They are then required to provide quarterly reports describing their work on an ongoing basis. These registration and quarterly report forms are collectively referred to as "lobbyist disclosure forms" or "lobbying disclosure forms."
Pursuant to the Lobbyist Disclosure Act of 1995, as codified in 2 U.S.C. § 1603, a lobbyist must register with the Secretary of the Senate and the Clerk of the House of Representatives within 45 days of being retained by a client to engage in lobbying or having engaging in lobbying, whichever comes first.
They do so by completing and submitting an LD-1 form.
(If the phrase "2 U.S.C. § 1603" sounds like foreign lingo to you, you can click here to learn more about the U.S. Code.)
If the lobbyist works at an organization that employees more than one lobbyist, then the registration must be filed by the organization rather than the individual lobbyist.
The organization is required to file a single registration for each client organization.
So for example, if a self-employed lobbyist is retained by Exxon Mobil to lobby on its behalf, the lobbyist will file an LD-1 form registering as a lobbyist for Exxon.
If however, Exxon Mobil retains three lobbyists at Akin, Grump, Strauss, Hauer & Field, LLP, a Washington, D.C. based lobbying firm, then Akin, Grump, Strauss, Hauer & Field, LLP would file a single LD-1 form informing Congress and the public that these three individuals will be lobbying for Exxon.
Likewise, if Exxon Mobil employs three in-house lobbyists, then Exxon would file an LD-1 form informing the public that these three individuals will be lobbying for Exxon.
There are however minimum financial thresholds below which initial registration filing is not required.
If a lobbying firm will receive or expects to receive less than $5,500 during a six month period for its lobbying activities on behalf of a particular client, then it does not need to complete an LD-1 firm.
So for example, if Exxon Mobil retains three lobbyists at Akin, Grump, Strauss, Hauer & Field, LLP for a total cost of $2,000, then Akin, Grump, Strauss, Hauer & Field, LLP does not need to complete an LD-1.
In the case of a firm employing in-house lobbyists, the minimal threshold is $22,500 in expenses during a six month period.
So for example, if Exxon Mobil employs three in-house lobbyists, for a total cost of $9,000, then Exxon does not need to complete an LD-1.
Note that the minimal thresholds are adjusted every four years to reflect changes in the Consumer Price Index. So, at the time the Lobbyist Disclosure Act was passed, the minimal thresholds were $2,500 for lobbying firms and $10,000 for an organization employing in-house lobbyists.
LD-1 forms ask for the contact information of the lobbyist or firm that is registering, the contact information of the client being lobbied for, and a general statement on the types of issues the lobbyist or firm will be lobbying on.
You can view an example of a completed LD-1 form here. In this case, Exxon Mobil retained two individuals at Akin, Grump, Strauss, Hauer & Field, LLP in 2001 to lobby on its behalf on issues related to oil and gas exploration, production, and marketing.
If you are searching the Senate database, simply tick the "Report Type" box under the heading "Filings" and the "Client Name" box under the heading "Clients," then click submit. Then, in the "Client Name" box, type in the name of the organization you are interested in learning about, and choose "REGISTRATION" in the "Report Type" drop down box. Then click "Submit" to be presented with a list of LD-1 forms filed with the company as a client.
If you are searching the House database, choose "Client Name" in one of the "Search Field" boxes and type in the organization's name in the "Criteria" box next to it. Then choose "Filing Type" in another "Search Field" box and select "Registration" in the neighboring "Criteria" box. Then click "Search" to be presented with a list of LD-1 forms filed with the company as a client.
After a lobbyist or firm has completed initial registration by filing an LD-1, they must then file a report of their activities every quarter, in accordance with 2 U.S.C. § 1604.
They do so by completing and submitting an LD-2 form.
The LD-2 quarterly report contains information about which specific issues they lobbied on during the prior three months and who they lobbied to (e.g. the Senate, the Department of Homeland Security).
If the report is filed by a lobbying firm, as opposed to an organization that deploys in-house lobbyists, it will also detail how much money the firm received from the client in compensation during the last three months.
If the amount of money received by the lobbying firm exceeded $5,000, it is rounded to the nearest $10,000.
Otherwise, the report will indicate that the compensation received totaled less than $5,000.
If the report is filed by an organization that uses in-house lobbyists, the report will detail how much the organization spent on lobbying during the past three months.
Again, the same rounding principles apply. If the expenses incurred by the organization for lobbying exceeded $5,000, it is rounded to the nearest $10,000.
Otherwise, the report will indicate that the expenses incurred totaled less than $5,000.
For example, here is a quarterly LD-2 filed by Koch Industries for the first quarter of 2017 which shows that it lobbied the Senate, on its own behalf, for, among other things, the confirmation of Scott Pruitt to lead the EPA.
The first section details the information of the organization filing the form, Koch Companies Public Sector LLC.
Section 7 tells us that the organization lobbied on its own behalf (i.e. the "Client" name matches the "Registrant" name in the first section and the box titled "Self" is ticked).
Section 9 tells us this is the quarterly report for the first three months of 2017.
Section 13 tells us that this lobbying activity resulted in expenses of $3.1 million (remember that this is a rounded figure to the nearest $10,000).
Then scroll down to sections 15-19 and you will notice that there is more than one section 15, 16, and so on.
This is because the lobbying activities are divided by issue.
So the first sections 15-19 deal with agriculture, the second deals with budget and appropriations, and so on.
Scroll down to the section dealing with environmental issues (general issue area code "ENV").
There you will see that one of the issues Koch lobbied on was the nomination of Scott Pruitt to become EPA administrator. You will also see that the targets of Koch's lobbying on environmental issues were the Senate, the House, and the EPA. And since we know that only the Senate has the power to confirm the president's appointee to lead the EPA, not the House or the EPA itself, we can infer that Koch lobbied the Senate to confirm Pruitt as administrator.
If you have made it this far, congratulations! You are now ready to read about the regulatory capture of the EPA.