Methodology

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"Hired Guns" is an analysis of lobby disclosure laws in all 50 states. The Center for Public Integrity created a ranking system that assigns a score to each state based on a survey containing a series of questions regarding state lobby disclosure.

The questions addressed eight key areas of disclosure for state lobbyists and the organizations that put them to work:

Definition of Lobbyist Individual Registration Individual Spending Disclosure Employer Spending Disclosure Electronic Filing Public Access Enforcement Revolving Door Provision Each question had a multiple choice answer, with each answer assigned a numerical value. The answers with the highest values reward full disclosure, public access and accountability. The maximum number of points a state could receive was 100.

Center researchers developed 48 questions, and sought answers for them by studying statutes and interviewing officials in charge of lobbying agencies in each state. Most questions required the researchers to find the information in the state statute and then use public officials for confirmation.

Because only one state scored an 80 or above, scores of 70 and higher are considered relatively satisfactory. Scores of 60 to 69 are considered marginal. Scores below 60 are considered failing.

Definition of Lobbyist (7 points maximum)

1. In addition to legislative lobbyists, does the definition recognize executive branch lobbyists?

No – 0 points Yes – 3 points

In other words, are individuals who only lobby executive branch officials considered lobbyists? This question refers to what is generally the first section of the lobbying statute, which defines a lobbyist and the act of lobbying. Does the statute indicate whether lobbying includes communicating with state legislators and, independently, executive branch officials, including the governor? States did not receive points for including executive communication in the definition only when it directly related to legislative action.

2. How much does an individual have to make/spend to qualify as a lobbyist or to prompt registration as a lobbyist, according to the definition?

Qualification threshold: More than $500 made/spent – 0 points Qualification threshold: More than $100 made/spent – 1 point Qualification threshold: More than $50 made/spent – 2 points Qualification threshold: $50 or less made/spent – 3 points Lobbyists qualify and must register no matter how much money made/spent – 4 points

In some cases, an individual has to spend a certain amount of money on lobbying activities in order to qualify and be required to register as a lobbyist. If a state did not have a monetary threshold, it received full points. Also, a state received full points when it required individuals who receive any amount of compensation, regardless of the amount, to register.

Individual Registration (19 points maximum)

3. Is a lobbyist required to file a registration form?

No – 0 points Yes – 3 points

This question refers to the registration of an individual lobbyist, not a lobbyist employer or group of lobbyists.

4. How many days can lobbying take place before registration is required?

16 or more days – 0 points 11 to 15 days – 1 point 6 to 10 days – 2 points 1 to 5 days – 3 points 0 days – 4 points

States have a time threshold that triggers registration, or they have a period of time after lobbying activity begins before which the lobbyist must register. This question refers to either case.

5. Is subject matter or bill number to be addressed by a lobbyist required on registration forms?

No bill number/subject matter required – 0 points Subject matter only required – 1 point Bill number required – 3 points

On the registration form, how specific is a lobbyist required to get when describing the areas of legislation he or she will be concerned with? States requiring specific bill numbers received full points. States only asking for a description of subject matter received fewer points.

6. How often is registration by a lobbyist required?

Once only – 0 points Every two years – 1 point Annually or more often – 2 points

This would include instances where registration expires on a regular date, or when a lobbyist must file regular supplements to their initial registration.

7. Within how many days must a lobbyist notify the oversight agency of changes in registration?

16 – or more days – 0 points 11 – 15 days – 1 point 6 – 10 days – 2 points 1 – 5 days – 3 points 0 days – 4 points

This does not cover regular spending reports, only instances where lobbyists’ information changes and they are required to notify the state.

8. Is a lobbyist required to submit a photograph with registration?

No – 0 points Yes – 1 point

This is usually covered by the registration section, and pertains to identification badges. Different states mandate different kind of identification for lobbyists, and some require photographs of the lobbyist.

9. Is a lobbyist required to identify by name each employer on the registration form?

No – 0 points Yes – 1point

A lobbyist is hired by companies or agencies to lobby on their behalf. In some cases, a lobbyist simply indicates each party he lobbies for on his registration. In others, he has to file a registration for each one separately. States requiring a lobbyist to identify employers in either way received full points.

10. Is a lobbyist required to include on the registration form any additional information about the type of lobbying work he or she does (i.e., compensated or non-compensated/contract or salaried)?

No – 0 points Yes – 1 point

States with a check box or something similar to indicate whether the lobbyist is either compensated or non-compensated, a salaried staff member or contracted lobbyist, or anything of that nature received full points. If a state required this information on spending reports rather than registration forms, it received full points.

Individual Spending Disclosure (29 points maximum)

11. Is a lobbyist required to file a spending report?

No – 0 points Yes – 3 points

Along with registration, lobbyists typically must disclose their spending in regular reports. This area is covered under the reporting section of the statutes.

12. How often during each two-year cycle is a lobbyist required to report spending?

0 – 3 filings – 0 points 4 – 6 filings – 1 point 7 – 9 filings – 2 points 10 – or more filings – 3 points

This question pertains to how many spending reports lobbyists must file in two years. Some states base reporting schedules on legislative schedules, which vary from year-round to every other year. For example, a state that required monthly reports while the legislature is in a four-month session, along with an annual report for that year and an annual report for the year the legislature is out of session, received 1 point for having 6 filings in two years.

13. Is compensation/salary required to be reported by a lobbyist on spending reports?

No – 0 points Yes – 2 points

States requiring lobbyists to report the amount of salary or fees they took in as pay for their lobbying services received full points. If a state required this information on registration forms rather than on spending reports, it still received full points.

14. Are summaries (totals) of spending classified by category types (i.e., gifts, entertainment, postage, etc.)?

No – 0 points Yes – 2 points

On the spending report, a lobbyist may be required to provide categorized totals of spending. States requiring only one aggregate total, not broken down by category types, received no points.

15. What spending must be itemized?

No spending required to be itemized – 0 points Itemization threshold: More than $100 – 1 point Itemization threshold: More than $25 – 2 points Itemization threshold: $25 and below – 3 points All spending required to be itemized – 4 points

"Itemized" was defined as an individual listing of single expenditures. Generally, states require itemization only once a single expenditure is above a certain threshold or an aggregate of single expenditures reach a certain threshold. If a lobbyist has to itemize each expense regardless of the dollar amount, a state received full points.

16. Is the lobbyist employer/principal on whose behalf the itemized expenditure was made required to be identified?

No – 0 points Yes – 1 point

For this question, a lobbyist must report the specific lobbyist employer for each expense. This detail is often left out despite the requirement of other details, but some states do require it. Also, several states require lobbyists to file separate spending reports for each employer represented. If spending is not required to be itemized, a state received no points.

17. Is the recipient of the itemized expenditure required to be identified?

No – 0 points Yes – 1 point

Is the lobbyist required to identify the legislator who benefited from the single expenditure? This can also mean a member of the legislator’s staff or family, depending on the statute. If spending is not required to be itemized, a state received no points.

18. Is the date of the itemized expenditure required to be reported?

No – 0 points Yes – 1 point

Is the lobbyist required to identify the date he or she made the single expenditure? If spending is not required to be itemized, a state received no points.

19. Is a description of the itemized expenditure required to be reported?

No – 0 points Yes – 1 point

The description might be very specific, or the form might require that a category, such as food or postage, be identified; in either case a state received full points. If spending is not required to be itemized, a state received no points.

20. Is subject matter or bill number to be addressed by a lobbyist required on spending reports?

No bill number/subject matter required – 0 points Subject matter only required – 1 point Bill number required – 3 points

On the spending report, how specific is a lobbyist required to get when describing the areas of legislation he or she will be concerned with? States requiring specific bill numbers received full points. States only asking for a description of subject matter received fewer points.

21. Is spending on household members of public officials by a lobbyist required to be reported?

No – 0 points Yes – 1 point

This question is often addressed by the section of the statute on spending reporting and the definitions section.

22. Is a lobbyist required to disclose direct business associations with public officials, candidates or members of their households?

No – 0 points Yes – 1 point

States have different definitions about business associations, but they will either require or not require the lobbyist to disclose those relationships.

23. What is the statutory provision for a lobbyist giving and reporting gifts?

Gifts are not reported – 0 points Gifts are reported – 1 point Gifts are limited and reported – 2 points Gifts are prohibited – 3 points

States requiring lobbyists to report all gifts to public officials received 1 point. States placing a limit on the dollar amount of a single gift or an aggregate amount of gifts and required reporting those under such a threshold, received 2 points. States prohibiting lobbyists from giving gifts to legislators, without a significant amount of exceptions, received full points for this question.

24. What is the statutory provision for a lobbyist giving and reporting campaign contributions?

Campaign contributions allowed and not required to be disclosed on spending report/prohibited during session – 0 points Campaign contributions allowed and not required to be disclosed on spending report/allowed during session – 0 points Campaign contributions allowed and required to be disclosed on spending report/prohibited during session – 1 point Campaign contributions allowed and required to be disclosed on spending report/allowed during session – 1point Campaign contributions prohibited – 2 points

States allowing lobbyists to donate funds to political campaigns without requiring lobbyists to report such contributions on spending reports received no points. States allowing lobbyists to donate funds to political campaigns while requiring lobbyists to report such contributions on spending reports received 1 point. States prohibiting lobbyists from giving campaign contributions received full points.

25. Is a lobbyist who has done no spending during a filing period required to make a report of no activity?

No – 0 points Yes – 1 point

States requiring lobbyists to file spending reports for each filing period, regardless of amount spent, received full points.

Employer Spending Disclosure (5 points maximum)

26. Is an employer or principal of a lobbyist required to file a spending report?

No – 0 point Yes – 3 points

States that require employers of individual lobbyists, known as lobbyist principals or clients, to file reports detailing spending received full points.

27. Is compensation/salary required to be reported on employer/principal spending reports?

No – 0 points Yes – 2 points

States requiring lobby employers to report the amount of salary or fees they paid out to individual lobbyists received full points.

Electronic Filing (3 points maximum)

28. Does the oversight agency provide lobbyists/employers with online registration?

No – 0 points Yes – 1 point

States providing lobbyists with the ability to file registration forms via the Internet received full points. This ensures that the information will be available in an electronic format to the public, and makes it possible for the agency to have a searchable database on its Web site.

29. Does the oversight agency provide lobbyists/employers with online spending reporting?

No – 0 points Yes – 1 point

States providing lobbyists with the ability to file spending reports via the Internet received full points. This ensures that the information will be available in an electronic format to the public, and makes it possible for the agency to have a searchable database on its Web site.

30. Does the oversight agency provide training about how to file registrations/spending reports electronically?

No – 0 points Yes – 1 point

States providing training on electronic filing through an informational packet or any other conveyance of instruction to the lobbyist received full points.

Public Access (20 points maximum)

31. Location/format of registrations or active lobbyist directory:

Photocopies from office only – 1 point PDF or image files on the Web – 2 points Searchable database on the Web – 3 points Downloadable files/database – 4 points

Most states provide multiple means for the public to access a directory of registered lobbyists, so this question was answered by choosing the item with the highest point value that applies. If, for example, the public can search a database of registered lobbyists on the state agency’s Web site and could get the original paper copies, the state received 3 points. To get 4 points on this question, the state must provide the lobbyist directory in an electronic format that the public could obtain and use with spreadsheet or database manager software. We defined "searchable database" as having an interface on the Web that allows the public to enter the name of an individual lobbyist or lobby employer (it does not refer to an interface that allows searching PDF or image files of the paper documents).

32. Location/format of spending reports:

Photocopies from office only – 1 point PDF or image files on the Web – 2 points Searchable database on the Web – 3 points Downloadable files/database – 4 points

Most states provide multiple means for the public to access spending reports filed by registered lobbyists, so this question was answered by choosing the item with the highest point value that applies. If, for example, the public can search a database of lobbyist spending on the state agency’s Web site and could get the original paper copies, the state received 3 points. To get 4 points on this question, the state must provide the lobbyist spending data in an electronic format that the public could obtain and use with spreadsheet or database manager software. We defined "searchable database" as having an interface on the Web that allows the public to see at least summary totals for each report filed or a full listing of itemized spending (it does not refer to an interface that allows searching PDF or image files of the paper documents).

33. Cost of copies:

25 cents or more per page – 0 points Less than 25 cents per page – 1 point

When citizens request copies of paper disclosure reports, state agencies charge a copying fee. This generally ranges from 5 cents to 50 cents. If a state charges a fee for a specific quantity (e.g., 25 cents for the first 10 pages) and a lower price for anything above that within the same request, they received the score appropriate for the first price. States that had different prices for in-state versus out-of-state residents received the score appropriate for the in-state price.

34. Are sample registration forms/spending reports available the Web?

No – 0 points Yes – 1 point

States providing blank copies of registration forms and spending reports on their Web sites received full points.

35. Does the state agency provide an overall lobbying spending total by year?

No – 0 points Yes – 2 points

States providing an overall, aggregate total of all lobby spending for 2002 received full points, regardless of whether the information was provided via the Web site or upon request.

36. Does the state agency provide an overall lobbying spending total by spending-report deadlines?

No – 0 points Yes – 2 points

States providing an overall, aggregate total of all lobby spending for all filing deadlines in 2002 received full points, whether the information was provided via the Web site or upon request.

37. Does the state agency provide an overall lobbying spending total by industries lobbyists represent?

No – 0 points Yes – 2 points

States providing an overall, aggregate total of money spent by industries that lobbyists represent received full points, whether the information was provided via the Web site or provided upon request. Lobby spending is not commonly organized in this fashion.

38. How often are lobby lists updated?

Semi-annually or less often – 1 point Monthly – 2 points Weekly – 3 points Daily – 4 points

This question pertains to the frequency with which state agencies update the lobby directory for public use.

Enforcement (15 points maximum)

39. Does the state have statutory auditing authority?

No – 0 points Yes – 2 points

States afforded legal authority in the statute or the power to conduct an official audit, including the ability to request outside documents from the lobbyist/employer (such as bank statements), received full points. This question does not pertain to how state agencies use that authority—whether or not they actually conduct audits—but to with whether they are authorized to do so. Authority could rest with any state agency in order to get full points.

40. Does the state agency conduct mandatory reviews or audits?

No – 0 points Yes – 2 points

Unlike the previous question, this one pertains to action. State agencies that actually examine the contents of filings received full points. Do they check for errors? Do the totals add up properly? This could be a random review of select filings or a review of every filing that comes through the door, but it has to be the result of internal initiative and not the result of a complaint.

41. Is there a statutory penalty for late filing of lobby registration form?

No – 0 points Yes – 1 point

This asks whether there is a penalty in the statute for lobbyists who fail to file a registration form by the stated deadline. Typically, the penalty is a fine issued on a per-day basis for each day that it is overdue.

42. Is there a statutory penalty for late filing of a lobby spending report?

No – 0 points Yes – 1 point

This asks whether there is a penalty in the statute for lobbyists who fail to file a spending report by the stated deadline. Typically, the penalty is a fine issued on a per-day basis for each day that it is overdue.

43. When was a penalty for late filing of a lobby spending report last levied?

More than 5 years – 0 points 4 to 5 years – 1 point 2 to 3 years – 2 points 0 to 1 year – 3 points

According to a representative of the state oversight agency, when did the agency last levy a penalty against a lobbyist for failing to file a spending report by the required deadline?

44. Is there a statutory penalty for incomplete filing of a lobby registration form?

No – 0 points Yes – 1 point

This asks whether there is a penalty in the statute for lobbyists who file a registration form that is missing information (i.e., pages, signatures, totals, etc). Having such a penalty provides a state agency with greater authority to ensure that committees submit complete reports, or at least respond to requests by the state agency to provide the missing information after the fact.

45. Is there a statutory penalty for incomplete filing of a lobby spending report?

No – 0 points Yes – 1 point

This asks whether there is a penalty in the statute for lobbyists who file a spending report that is missing information (i.e. pages, signatures, totals, etc). Having such a penalty provides a state agency with greater authority to ensure that committees submit complete reports, or at least respond to requests by the state agency to provide the missing information after the fact.

46. When was a penalty for incomplete filing of a lobby spending report last levied?

More than 5 years – 0 points 4 – 5 years – 1 point 2 – 3 years – 2 points 0 – 1 year/agency does not accept incomplete filings – 3 points

According to a representative of the state oversight agency, when did the agency last levy a penalty against a lobbyist for failing to file a complete spending report? State agencies that reported they do not accept incomplete filings also received full points.

47. Does the state publish a list of delinquent filers either on the Web or in a printed document?

No – 0 points Yes – 1 point

Full points for this question were rewarded to states making public a list of lobbyists who failed to file spending reports by the required deadline. To do this, a state might publish a list on their Web site, in a local newspaper or in some other publication.

Revolving Door Provision (2 points maximum)

48. Is there a “cooling off” period required before legislators can register as lobbyists?

No – 0 points Yes – 2 points

This question refers to whether or not a statute mandates a break period before former legislators can become lobbyists in the same state.

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