Memo to Executive Officers and Deans
Dear Executive Officers and Deans,
As we begin the academic year with many new colleagues, I thought it would be a good time to review information regarding federal lobbying and gift rules. Please share this with your faculty and staff.
The University of Michigan is registered as a lobbying entity, and we are required to file a quarterly report on all lobbying activity done on behalf of the University.
Our federal lobbying report is coordinated by Cindy Bank, Assistant Director of our Washington, D.C. office. You will receive a request from her for lobbying information the beginning of January, April, July and October.
Below are frequently asked questions and answers about the lobbying and gift rules. A more detailed summary of the rules can be found at Lobbying Summary
Please don't hesitate to contact Cindy at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions.
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS ABOUT THE FEDERAL LOBBYING DISCLOSURE LAW (LDA) AND GIFT RULES
The Honest Leadership and Open Government Act of 2007 requires the reporting of all official University federal lobbying activities directed at Congress and the Executive Branch. Only information about activities conducted on behalf of the University is reported.
Not all contact with the federal government needs to be reported. Check this document, or with the University’s Washington Office if you are not sure if your activities need to be reported.
Under the lobbying law (LDA), the terms “lobbying contact” and “lobbying activities” mean the following:
· Lobbying Contact: Any oral, written, or electronic communication to a covered official (Member of Congress, congressional staff, senior federal executive branch employees including the President, Vice President, Cabinet Officers, and senior agency officials) regarding the formulation, modification, or adoption of federal legislation; the administration or execution of a federal program or policy; or formulation, modification, or adoption of a federal rule, Executive order, policy, or position of the U.S. Government
· Lobbying Activities: Lobbying contacts and efforts in support of such contacts, including preparation or planning activities, research and other background work that is intended, at the time of its preparation, for use in contacts and coordination with the lobbying activities of others
Authorized Lobbying Activities
Who is authorized to make official lobbying contacts on behalf of the University?
Executive officers, deans, senior directors, federal relations staff and any designated faculty or staff are the individuals who are authorized to lobby on behalf of the University.
One of the authorized university officials has asked me to contact a covered federal official directly regarding proposed federal legislation. Is that a lobbying activity?
Yes. As an authorized official’s designee, any contacts you make will be on the University’s behalf, and therefore will need to be reported if the contact is made to influence federal legislation or regulation.
If the contact is made in response to a request from a covered official, to give testimony, or to share general information on your area of expertise, it does not have to be reported.
What is considered a “University resource,” and when can it be used for lobbying activities?
University resources, including but not limited to letterhead and IT resources, may be used if you have been asked by an authorized University official to perform lobbying activities on the University's behalf.
When communicating with legislators or other government offices about personal problems or positions on issues, use personal stationery and other resources.
May federal funds or grant money be used for lobbying purposes?
No. Federally funded resources may not be used for any lobbying purposes.
How do I calculate and report the cost of any lobbying activity?
Hours: Make a good-faith estimate of the number of hours of your time, and of any support staff time, taken up with any reportable lobbying activity during the reporting period in question.
Travel: For any travel related to lobbying activities provide trip expenses and percentage of time on trip devoted to lobbying activities.
Provide hour and travel expenses incurred related to lobbying activities on your quarterly report to Federal Relations. The information will be provided to UM Financial Operations to calculate the total cost of salary and benefits and travel.
May I, on my own behalf, contact a Member of Congress/Executive Agency regarding the status of legislation or regulation that affects my field?
Yes. Routine requests for the status of legislation, as long as there is no attempt to influence executive or legislative branch officials, do not need to be reported. You can also contact the UM DC office for updates.
Because I am aware of a Member’s possible interest in an area of my research, I would like to send updates or other communications to their office, without asking them for any particular action. Is that lobbying? And does it need to be reported?
General communication providing information about programs on campus that does not urge any particular legislative of regulatory action likely does not need to be reported. Check with the Federal Relations Office to be sure.
May I, on my own initiative, respond to a notice in the Federal Register or a similar publication soliciting public comment on a certain bill?
Yes. Communications made in response to a notice soliciting public communications do not need to be reported as lobbying.
May I contact a Member of Congress/Executive Agency regarding the status of a bill that does not concern my area of expertise?
As a private citizen, you may contact a Member of Congress or an Executive Agency regarding legislation. You must do it on your own time, and may not use University resources. Any substantive communications by faculty members or other university employees to a legislative or executive branch official on a matter of Federal interest are not considered lobbying activities unless the University has asked you to undertake the activity on its behalf. Accordingly, if you make such a contact, on your own initiative, you should state that you are presenting your personal views and that you are not representing the University.
May I contact a Member of Congress/Executive Agency regarding a personal matter?
You may use your own resources to contact a Federal official in your capacity as a private citizen. Communications made on behalf of an individual concerning his or her own benefits, employment and other personal matters involving only that individual are not considered lobbying contacts.
Other Types of Activities
I have been asked to give a speech/write an article about my area of research. Is this a lobbying activity?
It depends on who is asking you to give the speech/write the article, but probably not. In general, communications made in speeches, articles or other material widely distributed to the public through radio, television, or any other medium of mass communication are not considered lobbying contacts. However, if an authorized University official or their designee, in their official capacity, asks you to give a speech or write an article about your area of research, targeted specifically toward a legislative or executive branch official, you may be required under the Lobbying Act to report this activity. But if you are asked by someone other than an authorized University official, such as a professional association, student group, or other faculty member, you will likely not be required under the LDA to report such activity.
May I respond to a legislative/executive branch official(s) who asked for information regarding my area of expertise?
Yes. Information provided at the request of certain legislative or executive branch officials is not considered a lobbying activity, as long as the information is provided only to the federal official(s) who made the request. Such responses do not need to be reported under the LDA.
A congressional committee has asked me to testify before it regarding my area of research. Is this a lobbying activity?
No. Testimony given before a congressional committee or task force, or submitted for the public record of a congressional hearing, is not considered a lobbying activity under the LDA, and therefore does not have to be reported.
May I use University resources in preparation for my testimony?
Under these circumstances, you may use University resources to prepare your testimony. However, it must be made clear that you are not speaking on behalf of the University, and you may not use resources that are paid for entirely with federal funds.
My department, school, or college recently held an event in which a Member of Congress attended. Do we need to report the costs of that event?
It depends. Under the law, events “honoring” Members of Congress or other federal officials need to be reported. This will most likely not apply to appearances by Members or covered officials at most university events.
The law says that the costs of such events (including travel for staff specifically for the event, hall rental, catering, the costs of any plaque or other award, or other direct costs) need to be reported if the event specifically “honors” the covered official.
The rules used to define what events do and do not qualify can be hard to apply properly, and will need to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis in consultation with the Federal Relations Office. If you think you might have an event to report, contact the Federal Relation’s Office to discuss the particulars.
I have been asked to appear with a Member of Congress in public. May I do so? And do I have to report it as lobbying?
A public appearance at a Member’s request, or on panel with a Member, where you are present because of your expertise, not specifically representing or advocating for the University, does not need to be reported.
Travel to Washington DC to discuss my research with federal agencies is paid from my grant funds. If I also visit with Members of Congress or staff for lobbying purposes while I am in the area, do I need to report any of my travel costs as a lobbying expense?
Yes, you will need to include the time you spend on lobbying activities, and also report your travel costs. Federal funds cannot be spent on lobbying activities, including travel, so that percentage of the costs should be paid from other funds.
Lobbying Activities of Other Organizations and Associations
A professional organization to which I belong has asked me to contact a Member of Congress/Executive Branch official in support of a bill that relates to my field of expertise. Is this a lobbying activity?
If a professional organization asks you to contact a federal office, you may do so, as their representative, not as a representative of the University. This will be seen as a private lobbying activity based on your professional expertise, and not reportable as a University lobbying activity under the LDA.
A professional organization to which I belong has asked me to testify before a congressional committee regarding my area of research. Is this a lobbying activity?
If your professional organization asks you to testify before a congressional committee or task force, or asks you to submit a statement for the public record of a congressional hearing on their behalf, you are allowed to do so under the LDA, and therefore do not have to report it as a lobbying activity.
Does my work as a member of a Federal Advisory Committee constitute lobbying?
No. Communications made in the course of participation in an advisory committee are not considered lobbying.
What are the rules concerning gifts of meals, travel, entertainment to House and Senate and the Administration?
As a basic rule, members of Congress may not solicit a gift or accept a gift that is linked to any action they have taken or being asked to take. There are many rules concerning gifts, however, and there is a broad exception that permits gifts to Congress if they are paid for by a state or local government, including a state university. Members of the Executive Branch (i.e., President, Vice President, Cabinet Officers, and agency officials) are not permitted to accept gifts. Please contact the Office of Federal Relations if you are thinking of giving a gift.