Today’s Roll Call suggests that pollsters who present the results of their polling to Members and staff on behalf of private clients may not view themselves as required to register under the Lobbying Disclosure Act:
When it comes to disclosure rules, Brett Kappel, a lobbyist and campaign finance lawyer at Vorys, Sater,
This is not correct insofar as it suggests that “lobbying” has to consist of “advocat[ing] a particular position.” The Lobbying Disclosure Act defines a “lobbying contact” as any written or oral communication to a member (or covered staff) on behalf of a client in regard to (among other things) the “formulation, modification or adoption of federal legislation.” It doesn’t say that the communication has to advocate a particular position on how or whether legislation is adopted or modified.
So, for example, if a pollster does a poll on health insurance and present the results to one or more members of Congress on behalf of a private client, this would seem to be a lobbying contact, even if the pollster makes no statement about how the results should be used in crafting health insurance legislation. Surely the communication would be considered one “in regard to” the formulation, modification or adoption of health insurance legislation– otherwise what would the purpose be?
In order to determine whether the pollster is required to register as a lobbyist, one would have to look at his or her “lobbying activities” (time and expenses incurred in support of the lobbying contact)– in this case that might include the time and expenses of actually conducting the poll (although that could get complicated if the poll was being used for a variety of purposes, not just presentation to Congress). If the lobbying activities meet the expense threshhold and constitute at least 20% of the time spent on behalf of that particular client (and the pollster has made more than one lobbying contact in the reporting period), the pollster should be required to register as a lobbyist.