James.qxp Sept Oct 2018 web (2) - Page 23

espite the bad connotations often associated with the lobbyist label in today’s
political environment, the term should be
far from a dirty word. In Georgia, as in other
jurisdictions, lobbyists are important and frequently misunderstood players in the development of effective public policy solutions.
Rather than the “swamp creatures” they are
often characterized as, lobbyists are more akin to megaphones for important clients and causes, ranging from business associations and charities to faith communities and
public educators. When such groups require qualied and
zealous representation before state and local officials, departments and agencies, it is the lobbyists who step in to educate
and advocate on their behalf.
By virtue of their position within the public policy
process, lobbyists (like elected officials themselves) are subject to rigorous compliance obligations under state and local
law. In Georgia, those ethical demands are set forth in the
Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance
Act (the “Act”) and the associated rules and advisory guidance
of the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign
Finance Commission (the “Commission”). This regulatory
framework is designed to maintain an honest and transparent
political process within the state, and to require individuals
who undertake lobbying activity to meet certain disclosure
and ethical standards.
Like many jurisdictions across the country, Georgia’s
statutory denition of “lobbying”— the “activity of a lobbyist while acting in that capacity”— is broadly drafted and
leaves much to the imagination. As a result, it is essential
for active and prospective lobbyists to understand the practical categories of regulated lobbying engagement under
Georgia law and how communications and conduct might
t within one or more of those categories. For simplicity’s
sake, Georgia classies lobbyists based upon the potential
targets and/or nature of their outreach. Included among
these categories are state-level lobbyists, state-agency lobbyists, vendor lobbyists, and local-level lobbyists.
State-level lobbyists include all individuals receiving more
than $250 per year in compensation or making more than
$1,000 in annual lobbying expenditures for promoting or
opposing the passage of legislation before the General
Assembly, or the appeal or veto of legislation by the governor.
State-agency lobbyists include all individuals specically hired
to inuence a public officer or state agency in the passage or
defeat of an executive branch rule or regulation, any matter
before the State Transportation Board or the award of a contract for goods or services by a state agency. Vendor lobbyists
similarly include all individuals specically hired to inuence
a public officer or state agency in the selection of a vendor to
supply goods or services to the state. Finally, local-level lobbyists include all persons compensated specically to promote or
oppose the passage of local of municipal ordinances or resolutions by public officers throughout Georgia. Lobbyists who
meet more than one of these classications are required to
register for each applicable category or risk the imposition of
civil penalties by the Commission.


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