OPINION NUMBER - 038
ADOPTED - 1980/03/19
SUBJECT - Lobbying Practices - Registration of an entity as a lobbyist.
March 17, 1980
TO: Patrick J. O'Donnell, Clerk of the Legislature and William E. Holland, attorney for Association of Center Pivot Manufacturers
The association in question submitted an application for registration as a lobbyist. The application form showed the association as lobbyist and the association itself as principal. The office of the Clerk of the Legislature did not accept the same for registration and returned it to the association with a letter stating that an individual's name is required as lobbyist and that the association may be named as principal.
The attorney for the association then wrote to the Clerk's office explaining the situation and stating that the association would appreciate receiving an official determination as-to what action it should take on this matter and that it would await response before filing any revised application for registration. The matter has been referred by the Clerk to the Commission in the nature of a request for advisory opinion because
of the request of the attorney.
The letter from the attorney dated February 20, 1980, sets forth that the association's position is that there is no person who serves as lobbyist for the association. The association has no employees and has retained no one to represent it as a lobbyist. That under these circumstances it would be Misleading for
anyone to sign an application as "lobbyist" for the association. He further advises that the association in effect is only a convenient form for joint activity by its member companies on legislative matters where their interests are identical. The members, in working through the association are merely representing their own interests. Therefore, it could be argued that no registration whatsoever is necessary. In the interest of being certain to comply with Nebraska law, the members decided to submit an application to register the association as being the course of action rest accurately reflecting the circumstances.
The question presented appears to be whether the association which has no employees and has no one to represent it, may be registered as a lobbyist, and whether it in turn must have a registered lobbyist.
In this case, the association may not be registered as a lobbyist since it has not disclosed a principal which has authorized it to lobby on its behalf as required by §49-1480(2). See §49-1434(l) and (2). The letter of the attorney for the association indicates that the association has not retained anyone to represent it as a lobbyist and further indicates that the members, apparently referring to the corporate members of the association, are merely representing their own interests. Under these circumstances, and without more information, it would appear that each of the member corporations to the extent that it authorizes another, such as an officer or employee, to lobby on its behalf should have a registered lobbyist, who in turn, would be required to specify that corporation as its principal.
An entity could, and may have to, be registered as a lobbyist for another depending upon the contractual relationship between the principal and that entity as lobbyist, but since an entity must function through individuals, the individual or individuals who actually engage in lobbying activities such as contacting senators in connection with legislation in which the entity is interested (by reason of its contractual relationship with its principal) would have to be registered as a lobbyist or lobbyists for such entity as principal.
In other words, there could be several tiers of lobbyists and principals, an individual as lobbyist for a lobbying entity and a lobbying entity as lobbyist for a given principal. The usual situation in which this is encountered is where a trade association engages the services of an independent lobbying firm, for which, in turn, its partners or employees do the actual "lobbying."In any case, it appears that the action of the Clerk's office in returning the application in question is in conformity with the provisions of §491480 and 49-1480(2).