“In response to questions received from several individuals and organizations, this Office has advised that no fundraising may be conducted by members of the General Assembly until May 15, 2020 per T.C.A. 2-10-310(a)(1) & (b) (now the earliest date under the statute since the General Assembly is in recess and plans to return on June 1, 2020, and this is an even year). Furthermore, because of the restriction on employers of lobbyists and PACs controlled by employers of lobbyists under T.C.A. 3-6-304(i), those entities cannot make contributions to “a candidate for the office of governor or member of the general assembly during any regular annual session.” Since the current session is merely in recess and not completely adjourned for the year, these entities cannot make contributions to General Assembly members until this session is officially closed and adjourned.
The below bullet points are a helpful reference:
- From today through the adjournment of session, members cannot accept contributions from employers of lobbyists and PACs controlled by employers of lobbyists. On and after May 15, members can accept contributions from individuals (other than registered lobbyists), other candidates (who are not registered lobbyists), businesses that do not employ lobbyists, and PACs that that are not controlled by an employer of a lobbyist (ex: member leadership PACs).
- Following the adjournment of session, members can fundraise from all permissible sources.
Finally, the statutes this Office regulates only address restrictions on campaign fundraising during a session of the General Assembly, these statutes do not restrict a member from actually campaigning for office during session.”
A lobbyist is a person who communicates, directly or indirectly, with state government officials for the purpose of influencing action by the official for compensation. (T.C.A. § 3‐6‐301(15) and (17)) The term lobbyist does not include an employee of a governmental entity. However, a third party contracted to lobby for governmental entity is included in the definition of lobbyist. (T.C.A. § 3‐6‐301(15))
Employer of a lobbyist or employer is any person or entity that employs, retains, or otherwise arranges for a lobbyist to engage in lobbying on behalf of the person or entity for compensation. T.C.A. § 3‐6‐301(8). Entities not included in the definition of “employer” for registration purposes include:
- Governmental entities. (T.C.A. §3‐6‐301(15))
- A person or entity that utilizes the services of a volunteer lobbyist whose reimbursement for out‐of‐pocket expenditures does not exceed ten (10) days. See Manual for Lobbyists and Employers of Lobbyists for definition of volunteer lobbyist.
Lobbyists and employers of lobbyists are required to register, each calendar year, not later than seven (7)days after becoming a lobbyist or an employer of a lobbyist. Note that it is not an act of lobbying which triggers the requirement to register, but the act of accepting employment/retainer of employment. (See Advisory Opinion 06‐01.) For the purpose of employer registration requirements, the lobbyist has been employed whether the engagement is formal or informal, written or oral. A separate registration is required for each lobbyist employed.
As part of the registration process, a lobbyist must submit a current photographic portrait to the Commission within thirty (30) calendar days after registration. This portrait should be submitted in jpeg or gif format, be smaller than 5 megabytes in size, and for best appearance, be 180 by 255 pixels. Portraits should be e‐mailed to the Commission at email@example.com.
A lobbyist must pay $150 for each registration submitted. An employer of a lobbyist must pay $150 for each registration submitted. Payment may be submitted online by credit card or by check within 30 days of registration.
A lobbyist is required to take an annual ethics training course. T.C.A. § 3-6-114 The course is offered electronically. Beginning with 2012, a lobbyist may also attend one of the annual ethics courses provided for members of the general assembly. The cost of the training course is $40 and is due at the time of the first registration. Employers of lobbyists may, but are not required, to complete an ethics course.
An employer of a lobbyist is required to file a semi-annual Lobbying Expenditure Report. This report is filed electronically through the Commission’s website (https://apps.tn.gov/ilobby/). The reports cover the periods January 1 through June 30 (due by August 14) and July 1 through December 31 (due by February 14).
A lobbyist who is a member of a commission established by and responsible to the general assembly or is a member of a state regulatory commission must file a Sworn Disclosure of Consulting Services form (http://www.tn.gov/assets/entities/tec/attachments/forms/ss-8006 Consulting Services.pdf). The employer of a lobbyist who has employed such lobbyist must also file the form.
A lobbyist or an employer of a lobbyist who pays for an in-state event must submit a copy of the invitation within seven (7) days before the event. Within thirty (30) days after the event, an in-state event disclosure form (http://www.tn.gov/assets/entities/tec/attachments/forms/ss-8007.pdf), reporting the costs of the event must be filed with the Commission.
A lobbyist must report any gifts that are made to an official in the legislative or executive branch or to his or her family member who attends an event and accepts a gift that is provided by a person or entity not subject to the prohibition set forth in T.C.A. § 3-6-305(a)(1). See T.C.A. § 3-6-305(c) (http://tn.gov/sos/tec/forms/ss-8008.pdf)
The Commission sends email notifications to lobbyists and employers. Therefore, it is important that email contact information in the ilobby system be kept up to date.
Yes, T.C.A. § 3-6-304 provides specific prohibitions on lobbyists and employers of lobbyists, including prohibitions on campaign contributions. Gift prohibitions and exceptions to the prohibitions are covered under T.C.A. § 3-6-305. See Manual for Lobbyists and Employers of Lobbyists for details on these prohibitions and exceptions, including the exceptions for in-state events.
T.C.A. § 3-6-306 provides that the Commission may assess a civil penalty of $25.00 per day up to a
maximum of $750.00 if a lobbyist or employer of lobbyist:
- fails to timely register or timely update a registration;
- fails to timely pay registration fees;
- fails to timely file the lobbying expenditure report.
Further, the statute provides that the Commission may assess a civil penalty, not to exceed $10,000.00, if a lobbyist or employer of lobbyist:
- files information knowing or having reason to know that the information is inaccurate or incomplete;
- utilizes the services of a lobbyist or engages in lobbying for an employer knowing or having reason to know that the lobbyist or employer is not registered
- knowingly violates any provision of § 3-6-304 or § 3-6-305. However, the Commission may only assess a civil penalty up to two hundred percent (200%) of the value of any gift or $25.00, whichever is greater. See Manual for Lobbyists and Employers of Lobbyists.
Registrations are based on a calendar year and expire on December 31 if not withdrawn earlier.