NH Employer Warning! Are your employees unregistered lobbyists?

Donald J. Pfundstein
Published on : 2021-11-01

The New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office recently issued a guidance letter on employees being lobbyists.  You need to read and understand it now.  This guidance is not about the well- known “in-house” lobbyists that have historically registered and reported as lobbyists.   It is about you.

Many large companies, a plethora of non–profits and other tax-subsidized entities, trade associations and others have one or more registered lobbyists who are employees. This new guidance letter presumably deals with employees that are not the long understood and widely known “in-house” government affairs experts or lobbyists.  Heck, it is that person in your Zoom, WebEx or Teams “club” who acted on the manager’s suggestion to email their representative or state senator about that ill- advised legislation aimed to dismantle your company’s biosimilar research and development tax credit.  Good heavens. That person is an unregistered lobbyist.  Those occasional emails or phone conversations with your local representative about some piece of legislation are “lobbying”.  You are a lobbyist.  You need to register, report a portion of your employer-paid income and tell us about your spouse or other family members’ political contributions.  Oh, it is a crime if you do not.  

By the way, if your boss or your lobbyist colleague has tickets to a political fundraiser for the Senator or Representative you enjoy, better pass on those cold chicken pieces and drink tickets unless you swear not to mention anything about anything that has anything to do with legislation or administrative rules.   Otherwise, have a nice evening.   But, you can probably use the lobbying registration, income, and political contribution reporting requirements to say you are not going to any more fundraisers.  (Yeah!) There is always a silver lining.

Now, what about Ms. CEO or the workaholic, enormously successful entrepreneur.  You know the ones that associations, non-profits and corporate organizations squire in and around the corridors of power and prestige.  Well, the water is great.  Come on in.  Ms. CEO and successful entrepreneur better register and report their prorated salaries/income (maybe, the proration formula and data used to yield the reported value as well) and the political contributions they and their family make. Maybe just for another 10 months or so….for each pass through the hallowed halls sharing your organization’s story and views on good government.   It is not just the person sending an email.  It is the big deal makers and shakers too!

As I am fond of saying, I am a proud lawyer/lobbyist and work for a firm that employs several great lobbyists.   Why then, you may ask, would I complain about this guidance letter.  I am not complaining,  but we should all wonder about the meaning of the phrase “employed for a consideration by any other person,…in a representative capacity for the purposes of {lobbying}…” as used in RSA 15:1 I, if there is no materiality or frequency threshold so that every non-specifically, excluded communication triggers the need to register and report.  The guidance letter does say: “… permitting an individual or entity to avoid registration and reporting simply because the nature of his/her/its employment is primarily for a non-lobbying purpose would frustrate the intent of the statute. The goal of this law is to ensure transparency…” (See page 3 of above guidance letter)

No more employee outreach, no more employee emails or calls to representatives and senators, no more fund raising circuit (yeah!) unless you register and report your prorated salary and the political contributions you, your spouse and family make.   Oh, there is that $50.00 filing fee, which needs to be paid to the NH Secretary of State with each employee lobbyist registration.

New Hampshire may employ more lobbyists per capita than any other state.  We always did enjoy being first in the nation!

Attorney Pfundstein is admitted in the state and federal courts of New Hampshire.