State Relations

Public Agency Lobbying

Background

In 1972, the voters of Washington State adopted Initiative 276, commonly known today as the Public Disclosure Act, which demands that the people of the state be informed about the sources and amount of funds spent attempting to influence state decision makers. The law is administered by a five-member Public Disclosure Commission with the assistance of a full-time staff.

The law has broad reporting requirements for public and private entities that lobby at the state level with special requirements and restrictions for state and local agencies. With respect to the authority of the University of Washington to lobby state legislators, legislative staff members and state agency personnel, the law is comprehensive, specific and restrictive.

What is lobbying?

Lobbying is defined as attempting to influence the passage or defeat of any state legislation (including budget proposals), or the adoption or rejection of state agency rules, standards or rates.

The most common form of lobbying is face to face contact with a state legislator with the objective of influencing their action or inaction on state legislation (including budget proposals). Efforts to influence the governor’s approval or veto of measures that have passed the legislature and efforts to influence legislative or gubernatorial staff are also considered lobbying.

Limits on public agency lobbying

State agencies are granted the authority to lobby using public funds but their authority is limited generally to communicating with state officeholders on official agency business and advocating only the official position or interests of the agency.

State agencies are prohibited from:

  • Engaging in “grassroots” or other indirect forms of lobbying.
  • Spending public funds directly or indirectly for campaign contributions.
  • Spending public funds directly or indirectly for gifts, which include 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.
  • Using public resources, including use of facilities, to support or oppose a ballot measure such as an initiative or referendum to the people.

Reporting

All state agencies must keep detailed records concerning the amount of time employees spend on in-person lobbying, showing what issues were lobbied, who the conversation was with and what lobbying expenditures were incurred. This information must then be reported to the Public Disclosure Commission (PDC) on a quarterly basis.

The Office of State Relations is designated by the University President to compile and complete the University’s quarterly L-5 report to the PDC. State Relations does this through the PDC’s online filing system. This report is due by the end of the month following the close of every calendar 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 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.

Click here to download the university’s state lobbying report form.

What lobbying activities must be reported?

  • The L-5 report must disclose the dates of lobbying, the names and titles of all persons engaging in lobbying activity, the subjects of the lobbying and all costs associated with lobbying including wages, travel expenses, and relevant entertainment expenses incurred as university representatives.
  • Itemization of the information listed above as it pertains to in-person lobbying conducted by all university employees that is directed towards state legislators, state-wide elected officials and their staff.
  • Itemization of non-public fund expenditures spent in conjunction with the agency’s lobbying program (i.e., meals, beverages, travel, etc.).
  • Expenditures on publications printed for the purpose of lobbying.
  • Expenditures on consultants or contractors employed by the agency to assist in lobbying activities.

What activities are NOT required to be reported?

  • Budget requests to the Office of Financial Management.
  • Reports to the legislature in response to a legislative request or funding proviso.
  • Official reports required by law.
  • Communications between or within state agencies.
  • Telephone conversations or electronic correspondence.
  • Monitoring legislative or agency meetings and hearings.
  • Preparation or adoption of policy positions within an agency or group of agencies.
  • Attempts to influence the interpretation or application of an existing state rule or policy.
  • Attempts to influence federal or local legislation.

For more information about public agency lobbying, please visit these pages on the Public Disclosure Commission website:

For information regarding university policies related to lobbying, please see Administration Policy Statement 1.3: University Government Relations and Lobbying Elected Officials.