Lobbyist Rules

The Political Reform Act requires individuals, businesses and other organizations that make or receive payments to influence state governmental decisions – such as advocating for or against legislative bills and state agency regulations – to register as lobbyists and submit periodic reports of their lobbying activity. You can access these reports through California’s statewide campaign finance and lobbying database, Cal-Access.

The Act does not regulate individuals or other entities that lobby the federal government, or city, county or other local government agencies.

The following are common terms used for lobbying rules:

Lobbyist/Lobbying Firm

A lobbyist is an individual who is compensated to communicate directly with any state, legislative or agency official to influence legislative or administrative action on behalf of his or her employer or client. An individual who receives reimbursement only for reasonable travel expenses is not a lobbyist.

A lobbying firm is a business that is compensated to communicate directly with any state, legislative or agency official to influence legislative or administrative action on behalf of a client.

Lobbyist Employers/Lobbying Coalitions

A lobbyist employer is an individual, business or other organization that employs a lobbyist or hires a lobbying firm.

A lobbying coalition is a group of 10 or more individuals, businesses or other organizations that pool their funds for the purpose of hiring a lobbyist or lobbying firm.

$5,000 Filers

A $5,000 filer is an individual or entity that does not make payments to a lobbyist or a lobbying firm, but still spends $5,000 or more in a calendar quarter to influence legislative or administrative action, such as placing an advertisement or sending a mailing urging others to contact their legislators concerning pending legislation.

Placement Agents

A placement agent is any person hired, engaged, or retained by, or serving for the benefit of or on behalf of, an external manager, or on behalf of another placement agent, who acts or has acted for compensation as a finder, solicitor, marketer, consultant, broker, or other intermediary in connection with the offer or sale of the securities, assets, or services of an external manager to a board or an investment vehicle, either directly or indirectly.  Individuals who serve as placement agents before an entity such as CalPERS or CalSTRS must register as lobbyists and file disclosure reports.

Placement Agents: Lobbying Registration Fact Sheet

Placement Agents: Lobbying Disclosure Fact Sheet

Ethics Training for Lobbyists

California Government Code Section 86103 requires (state) lobbyists to attend an ethics course as a condition of registration. The Senate Committee on Legislative Ethics and Assembly Legislative Ethics Committee jointly conduct the ethics courses for lobbyists.  Please see the Secretary of State's website for more information on training. Those who lobby local agencies should contact the local jurisdiction for information on possible requirements.

Gifts: Limits and Restrictions on Lobbyists

Lobbyists and lobbying firms are prohibited from making a gift or gifts totaling more than $10 in a calendar month to a state, legislative or agency official (including designated state employees) if that lobbyist or lobbying firm is registered to lobby the governmental agency at which the official works.

State, legislative and agency officials (including designated state employees) are prohibited from receiving gifts totaling more than $500 in a calendar year from a single source. This prohibition includes gifts from lobbyist employers and $5,000 filers. 

Helpful Lobbying Resources