INSTRUCTIONS FOR CLIENTS
(Revised January 2012)
Legislative Law Article 1-A ("Lobbying Act," or "the Act") mandates that the Joint Commission on Public Ethics ("Commission") provide full and complete disclosure as to the identities, activities, and expenditures of those attempting to influence the governmental decision-making process in New York State on both the state and local government levels. Further, pursuant to the Act's provisions, the Commission prepares forms, as well as instructions for completing these forms. The information contained in these instructions is provided to assist you in reporting as a client. It is not intended to supersede the Lobbying Act itself. Public Corporations and lobbyists should refer to separate instructions available through the Commission.
What is a client?
The term "client" shall mean every person or organization who retains, employs or designates any person or organization to carry on lobbying activity on behalf of such client.
To whom does the Act apply?
The Lobbying Act applies to lobbyists, public corporations, and clients or employees of lobbyists or clients, who in any year during the biennial period either reasonably anticipate expending, incurring, or receiving, or actually expend, incur, or receive, more than $5,000 in combined reportable compensation and expenses for lobbying activities on a state and/or local level.
What is lobbying activity?
The term "lobbying" or "lobbying activity" shall mean and include any attempt to influence:
(i) the passage or defeat of any legislation or resolution by either house of the state legislature, including but not limited to, the introduction or intended introduction of such legislation or resolution, or approval or disapproval of any legislation by the governor;
(ii) the adoption, issuance, rescission, modification or terms of a gubernatorial executive order;
(iii) the adoption or rejection of any rule or regulation having the force and effect of law by a state agency;
(iv) the outcome of any rate making proceeding by a state agency;
(v) any determination:
(A) by a public official, or by a person or entity working in cooperation with a public official related to a governmental procurement, or
(B) by an officer or employee of the unified court system, or by a person or entity working in cooperation with an officer or employee of the unified court system related to a governmental procurement;
(vi) the approval, disapproval, implementation or administration of tribal-state compacts, memoranda of understanding, or any other tribal-state agreements and any other state actions related to Class III gaming as provided in 25 U.S.C. §2701, except to the extent designation of such activities as "lobbying" is barred by the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, by a public official or by a person or entity working in cooperation with a public official in relation to such approval, disapproval, implementation or administration;
(vii) the passage or defeat of any local law, ordinance, resolution, or regulation by any municipality or subdivision thereof;
(viii) the adoption, issuance, rescission, modification or terms of an executive order issued by the chief executive officer of a municipality;
(ix) the adoption or rejection of any rule, regulation, or resolution having the force and effect of a local law ordinance, resolution, or regulation; or
(x) the outcome of any rate making proceeding by any municipality or subdivision thereof.
What is a municipality?
The term "municipality" shall mean any jurisdictional subdivision of the state, including but not limited to counties, cities, towns, villages, improvement districts and special districts, with a population of more than fifty thousand; and industrial development agencies in jurisdictional subdivisions with a population of more than fifty thousand; and public authorities, and public corporations, but shall not include school districts.
What is an organization?
The term "organization" shall mean any corporation, company, foundation, association, college as defined by Section 2 of the Education law, labor organization, firm, partnership, society, joint stock company, state agency or public corporation.
What is a reportable business relationship?
The term "reportable business relationship" shall mean a relationship in which compensation is paid by a lobbyist or by a client of a lobbyist, in exchange for any goods, services or anything of value, the total value of which is in excess of $1,000 annually, to be performed or provided by or intended to be performed or provided by:
(i) any statewide elected official, state officer, state employee, member of the legislature or legislative employee, or
(ii) any entity in which the lobbyist or the client of a lobbyist knows or has reason to know the statewide elected official, state officer, state employee, member of the legislature or legislative employee is a proprietor, partner, director, officer or manager, or owns or controls ten percent or more of the stock of such entity. This threshold is reduced to one percent in the case of a corporation whose stock is regularly traded on an established securities exchange.
What is a widely attended event?
The term "widely attended event" shall mean an event:
(A) which at least twenty-five individuals other than members, officers, or employees from the governmental entity in which the public official serves, attends, or were, in good faith, invited to attend, and
(B) which is either related to the attendee's duties or responsibilities, or allows the public official to perform a ceremonial function appropriate to his or her position.
How does one obtain forms to report?
The Commission offers three options for filing:
Electronic Filing: The Commission encourages all clients to visit its website https://apps.jcope.ny.gov/lrr to register and report using its electronic filing application. Electronic filing has several advantages not available to paper filers, including twenty-four hour, seven days a week availability, credit card fee payment option and daily access to all of your filings and their processing status. You may also save your filing as you work on entries. You can log on to the online system at our website to apply for a User ID and Password to file electronically. Online filing instructions can be found at any of the Help buttons located within the electronic forms.
PDF Filing: For those clients who do not want to file electronically, but have access to the Internet, you can download and print a PDF version of the client form from the Commission's website www.jcope.ny.gov/forms/lobbying.html.
Paper Filing: For those clients who do not have access to the Internet, forms are available by calling the Commission's office at (518) 408-3976. The Commission's office is open from 8:30 A.M. to 4:30 P.M. on regular state business days. The Commission requires that reports with original signatures be submitted for filing; photocopies and faxes will not be accepted. Consequently, it is important that you allow sufficient time to obtain and submit original forms prior to the filing due dates.
PLEASE NOTE THAT IT TAKES CONSIDERABLY MORE TIME TO PROCESS A PDF OR PAPER FORM - OFTEN 4-6 WEEKS.
Who is responsible for signing and filing the Client Semi-Annual Report?
The chief administrative officer of the client is responsible for signing and filing all client reports. However, the chief administrative officer may designate another individual, in writing, to make and sign statement(s) and/or report(s). The designated individual must make a written acceptance of such designation and the designation MUST specify which statement(s) and/or report(s) are covered, as well as the specific year or biennial period.
The following is a sample format that may be used for a designation:
(name of Chief Administrative Officer)
of __________________________________________, hereby designate
(name of client)
__________________________________________ to make and file the
(name of designee)
Client Semi-Annual Report(s) for
(year or time period)
(Signature of Chief Administrative Officer)
(Signature and Title of Designee)
Please Note — The chief administrative officer may designate another to sign and file the reports, but this designation does not relieve the chief administrative officer of liability due to a failure to file, late filing or false filing of any report(s).
Can an employed lobbyist sign the Client Semi-Annual Report?
No. The client's chief administrative officer must sign the Client Semi-Annual Report, unless he or she has filed a written designation with this office for another individual to do so.
Please note: You must report the full legal name of the lobbyist and client. Do not use abbreviations or acronyms. Names beginning with "New York" or "New York State" should be listed with (New York or NY) or (New York State or NYS), respectively, after the remainder of the name title.
COMMON REPORTING QUESTIONS
Who must file a Client Semi-Annual Report?
Semi-annual reports are required to be filed by any client retaining, employing or designating a lobbyist or lobbyists, whether or not any such lobbyist was required to file a bimonthly report, if it is reasonably anticipated that during the year an amount in excess of $5,000 in combined reportable compensation and expenses for lobbying will be expended or incurred.
The first Client Semi-Annual Report is due by the 15th day of the month following the end of the reporting period in which the client was first required to file a Client Semi-Annual Report. If the threshold is exceeded in the January through June period, a July/December Client Semi-Annual Report is required to be filed, even if no further monies are expended; unless the agreement or authorization with your lobbyist terminated on or before June 30. If a January/June Client Semi-Annual Report is filed, and the threshold has not been met for the year, a July/December Client Semi-Annual Report is NOT required.
The amounts expended, incurred, or received of reportable compensation and expenses for lobbying activities must be computed cumulatively for all lobbying activities when determining whether the thresholds have been met.
IMPORTANT: For a client who retains or employs other independently registered lobbyists, these lobbyists MUST register using the same exact client name. Registering with variations of the same client name will cause the Commission to send out delinquent report notices and may subject you to an assessment of a civil penalty fine. If your "client name" varies between your lobbyists, a separate Client Semi-Annual Report is required to be filed for EACH lobbyist, including the accompanying $50 non-refundable filing fee (payable in US dollars).
When must a Client Semi-Annual Report be filed?
There are two reporting periods:
January 1 - June 30 -- (Report is due July 15)
July 1 - December 31 -- (Report is due January 15)
Please note: Timely reports are those that are RECEIVED in the Commission's office on or before the due date.
Is there a filing fee?
Each Client Semi-Annual Report must be accompanied by a $50 non-refundable filing fee (payable in US dollars). Any filing fees paid by check must be paid separately from other filings; i.e., one check per filing, made payable to the New York State Joint Commission on Public Ethics. Any check that includes filing fees for more than one report will be returned to you by the Commission. This is necessary to facilitate the Commission's computer application program. Filing fees may still be paid online with Visa, MasterCard or American Express. No additional fee is required for amended Client Semi-Annual Reports, provided an original is on file for that period. A fee may be charged for a returned check.
Please note: "Public Corporations" required to file Client Semi-Annual Reports are required to pay the $50 Client Semi-Annual Report filing fee (payable in US dollars).
THE FILING FEE IS NON-REFUNDABLE.
How are bill numbers and information relative to the introduction or intended introduction of legislation or a resolution reported on the Client Semi-Annual Report?
You should report only those numbers the client lobbied on during the reporting period. Legislation or a resolution that has not yet been introduced (no number to disclose) should be reported in this section by giving a brief description of the intended legislation or resolution.
A client has retained or employed lobbyist(s) to lobby on both a local and state level. How should they report expenses and compensation?
Compensation and expenses for local and state level lobbying must be reported on the same form. At this time, the Commission is not requiring that local compensation or expenses be reported separately from state compensation and expenses.
What are reportable compensation and reportable expenses?
The term "reportable compensation" shall mean and include any salary, fee, gift, payment, benefit, loan, advance, or any other thing of value paid, owed, given, or promised to the lobbyist by the client, or employer, for lobbying. For reporting purposes, "reportable compensation" shall include any such compensation paid or owed to the lobbyist for the purpose of lobbying. Such report must include all salaries and other compensation paid to staff such as those of lobbying employees or clerical help. All reportable compensation in any form must be recorded during the calendar year when it was accrued.
Reportable expenses are any expenditure incurred by the client or reimbursed to the lobbyist for the purpose of lobbying. Reportable expenses may include items which, in and of themselves, do not constitute lobbying, but when used as part of a lobbying effort become reportable expenses. Examples reviewed under the definition are non inclusive and practitioners are encouraged to request Commission clarification prior to completing their reports.
Reportable expenses may include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Advertising, telephone, electronic advocacy, food, beverages, tickets, entertainment, parties, receptions or similar events, advocacy rallies, consultant services, expenses for non-lobbying support staff, and courier services when said expenses are part of a lobbying effort.
- Any item that is exempt as a gift in Section 1 (c)(j) of the Lobbying Act must be reported if it is part of your lobbying effort.
What expenses are not required to be reported?
- Expenses for political contributions pursuant to Article 14 of the Election law.
- Payments or expenses incurred by the lobbyist for their own personal sustenance, travel, and lodging.
- General office rent and utility expenses of the lobbyist.
- Expenses directly incurred for printing, mailing, and reproduction of letters, memoranda, or other written communications are not reportable until such expenses exceed $500 in any calendar year; however, once this amount has been exceeded, the entire cost is reportable.
- Ordinary membership dues paid to an organization that is registered to lobby to the extent said dues are not directed by the payor to be expended as part of the payor's lobbying effort.
How should compensation and expenses be reported?
All compensation and expenses must be disclosed for the semi-annual period in which they are paid, owed, or incurred. In addition, if the client reimburses the lobbyist for expenses during the reporting period, such reimbursement must also be reported during the period in which the expenses were actually reimbursed.
If a lobbying expense exceeds $75, must it be itemized?
An expense in excess of $75 must be fully identified and include the name of the person or entity to whom it was paid, as well as the date and purpose for which it was paid (see "Client Semi-Annual Report Designated Addendum Sheet(s)"). You must also indicate if the expense was procurement or non-procurement related. If any portion of this expense is attributable to one individual in an amount in excess of $75, that individual's identity must be disclosed. Expenses below $75 may be reported in the aggregate.
What type of documentation of expenses must be kept?
A client must be able to document any expense of more than fifty dollars by receipt or canceled check for a period of three years from the date of filing. It is important to note that the Commission conducts random audits of filings pursuant to the Act. These audits may require a client to produce books, records, papers or memoranda, and material relevant to the preparation of the selected filing. Failure to retain records as required may subject the client to a civil penalty of $2,000.
Can certain expenses be estimated?
Yes. In cases where it is not possible to determine exact dollar amounts (such as photocopying, phone bills, in-house printing and reproduction expenses), good faith estimates of such costs, based on generally accepted accounting procedures, may be used.
How is a reportable business relationship reported on the Client Semi-Annual Report?
Section 1-j(b)(6) requires the following be reported:
- The name and public office address of any statewide elected official, state officer or employee, member of the legislature or legislative employee and entity with whom the client of the lobbyist has a reportable business relationship;
- A description of the general subject or subjects of the transactions between the client of a lobbyist and the statewide elected official, state officer or employee, member of the legislature or legislative employee or entity; and
- The compensation, including expenses, to be paid and paid by virtue of the business relationship.
If you are subject to the requirements of this Section, a 'Business Relationship' form must be submitted each calendar year. The information submitted on this form will appear on each Client Semi-Annual Report (and/or amendment) after the initial submission. (This includes all approved and 'new' reports.) (SEE On-Demand Video Tutorial for more detailed instruction.)
Does a Client Semi-Annual Report have to be filed if a client does not meet the reporting threshold?
If you will not meet the reporting threshold, or do not reasonably anticipate that during the year an amount in excess of $5,000 in combined reportable compensation and expenses for lobbying will be expended or incurred, a Client Semi-Annual Report is NOT required to be filed.
Please note that if the threshold is exceeded in the January through June period, a July/December Client Semi-Annual Report is required to be filed, even if no further monies are expended; unless the agreement or authorization with your lobbyist terminated on or before June 30. If a January/June Client Semi-Annual Report is filed, and the threshold has not been met for the year, a July/December Client Semi-Annual Report is NOT required.
Can a Client Semi-Annual Report be withdrawn after submission?
Client Semi-Annual Reports filed showing $0 in compensation/expenses, no lobbying activity, and whose agreements/authorizations with their lobbyist(s) have 'expired' or been terminated, may be requested to be withdrawn by the client unilaterally (confirmation from the lobbyist is not required). Such request must be signed and/or submitted via email by the responsible person, designated person, or CAO. A Client Semi-Annual Report that has been amended to remove compensation and/or lobbying activity requires lobbyist confirmation for withdrawal.
What should the client do if a report cannot be filed by the statutory due date?
Requests for extensions of filing time can be made in writing and must be received in the Commission's office no later than two business days prior to the filing due date. Such request must contain good cause and shall be granted at the discretion of the Executive Director of the Commission.
What is required if a lobbying agreement terminates before the end of the registration period?
Section 1-g of the Lobbying Act requires written notification of the terms of the termination from both the lobbyist and the client within thirty (30) days after the lobbyist ceases lobbying activity. In addition, both parties must still file all required reports by their statutory due dates, reporting all lobbying activity up to the effective date of termination. No notice need be filed if the termination of retainer, employment, or designation takes effect at the end of the biennial registration period.
If a report is due on a weekend or a State holiday, when should the report be filed?
The report must be received in the Commission's office on the first business day following the weekend or State holiday.
What are the retention requirements for filings?
All reports must be retained for a period of three years.
PLEASE NOTE: All sections of the reporting forms must be completed. If a section of the report does not apply for a particular reporting period, fill in "0" in all numeric sections and none, or N/A, in all other sections. Reports with blank or incomplete sections will be returned for proper completion. Please note that this may cause you to be late and incur late filing fees.
Are there any prohibitions in the Lobbying Act?
The Lobbying Act prohibits the following:
- Retaining or employing any lobbyist and the acceptance of any such retainer or employment by any lobbyist where the compensation is contingent on the outcome of such lobbying activity. "Compensation" includes any fee, bonus, stock option, equity inducement or other form of remuneration. This is a Class A misdemeanor.
- An individual or entity required to be listed on a Statement of Registration pursuant to Article 1-A of the Legislative Law from offering or giving a gift to a Public Official. (Definitions of "gift" and "Public Official" can be found in the Lobbying Act.) Any lobbyist, public corporation or client who violates this prohibition shall be guilty of a class A misdemeanor for a first violation and a class E felony for a second violation within five years of the first. Further, such lobbyist, public corporation or client is also subject to a civil penalty in an amount not to exceed the greater of $25,000 or three times the amount of the gift. Any lobbyist convicted of or pleading guilty to a felony under the provisions of Section 1-o may be barred from acting as a lobbyist for a period of one year from the date of the conviction.
- A person or organization required to file a statement or report pursuant to this article from engaging in lobbying activities concerning a governmental procurement during the restricted period as defined in §1-c(m) of the Act by contacting:
* any other person within the procuring entity other than the designated contact; or
* any person in a state agency other than the state agency conducting the governmental procurement.
A first-time violation of this provision may subject the person or organization to a civil penalty of up to $10,000. Subsequent violations of this provision within four years of the initial violation may subject the person or organization to a civil penalty fine of up to $25,000.
What if my filing is late?
First time filers may be charged a late filing fee of no more than $10 per day for each day the required filing is late. All others may be charged a late filing fee of $25 per day for each day the required filing is late.
Are there any other penalties for not filing a required statement or report?
Failure to file a statement or report may subject the client to a civil penalty fine not to exceed the greater of $25,000 or three times the amount the person failed to report properly. In addition, a client may be guilty of a Class A misdemeanor for a first time failure and a Class E felony for subsequent failures within five years of the first.
ACCESS TO PUBLICLY AVAILABLE DOCUMENTS
Are a client's reports publicly available?
Any lobbying statement or report filed with the Commission is accessible to the public for a period of three years (for annual filings) and three biennial periods or six years (for biennial filings). The public may access these filings in one of three ways:
- These reports are directly accessible through the website www.jcope.ny.gov; or
- By mailing, faxing or emailing a written request for copies of records to the Records Access Officer; or
- By making an appointment with the Records Access Officer to inspect and copy documents at the Commission's offices. With a prior appointment, inspection may occur on days that the Commission is regularly open for business from 8:30 A.M. to 4:30 P.M.
The Joint Commission on Public Ethics may charge copying fees in accordance with it's Regulations for Access to Publicly Available Records.