Philadelphia’s new lobbying law took effect on January 3, 2012. Incorporated into the Philadelphia Code as Chapter 20-1200, the law’s reach is not limited to professional lobbyists and lobbying firms. In fact, the law’s definition of lobbying includes activities frequently engaged in by many nonprofit organizations.
Under the new law, lobbying generally occurs whenever a communication is made in an effort to influence legislative or administrative action. This includes when a person or organization provides gifts, hospitality, transportation, or lodging to a City official or employee to advance the cause of that person or organization or a client of that person or organization. This also includes direct communication with a City official, a City agency, or certain City-related agencies in an effort to influence legislative or administrative action. Importantly, under § 20-1201, lobbying encompasses indirect communication with the “purpose or foreseeable effect” of encouraging others to influence legislative or administrative action. Letter-writing campaigns, mailings, telephone banks, print and electronic media advertising, billboards, and educational campaigns on public issues are specifically mentioned by the law as examples of indirect communication that can constitute lobbying. Newsletters can also constitute lobbying if they are not primarily designed for and distributed to members of a bona fide association or charitable or fraternal nonprofit corporation.
An individual who lobbies 20 hours or more in a calendar quarter, or who receives $2,500 or more in a calendar quarter as salary or compensation for lobbying, must register with the City’s Board of Ethics as a lobbyist. An organization or company that spends $2,500 or more on lobbying in a calendar quarter, whether in salary to employees, to outside professional lobbyists, for office expenses, or otherwise, must register as a principal. In addition, principals must file quarterly statements regarding lobbying expenditures.
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