Office of
Sponsored Programs

Preaward Guidelines

Lobbying

 

The Byrd Amendment (Section 1352, Title 31, U.S. Code) identifies what activities are considered lobbying and therefore prohibited when utilizing federal funds.

The law prohibits recipients of federal funds--whether grants, contracts, or cooperative agreements--from using those funds to lobby to obtain, extend, or modify a federal award.

The regulation is intended to prevent the use of federal funds for lobbying and to monitor the lobbying expenditures of federal funds recipients. Even though the recipient of federal funds is legally the institution to which the award is issued, inpiduals who are employed by the institution are specifically and inpidually included under the regulation as well.

Items of the law which apply to Stevens Institute of Technology faculty, research staff, and administrative staff include the following:

  1. You may not use federal funds to influence or attempt to influence any member of the Executive or Legislative branches of government (including any agency employee) for the purpose of securing a grant, contract, or cooperative agreement or an extension, renewal, or modification of any of these awards. Charging travel expenses to a federal award or drawing salary from a federal award while attempting to influence the award of federal funds for a specific program is defined as lobbying—and is prohibited. You may neither incur such expenditures on an award yourself nor pay to hire someone to undertake this activity on your behalf.
  2. There is an exception for payments for inpidual technical and professional consultant services to the government that are outside of your work as an employee of the Institute. Please contact the Office of Sponsored Research if you wish to learn if that exception applies to you.
  3. If the proposed award exceeds $100,000, the Office of Sponsored Research must certify for the Institute at the time of proposal submission that the institution will abide by the regulations in (1) above and we must, if lobbying has occurred using non-federal funds, submit a report of such activities.
  4. If the Institute violates the regulations, the institution is subject to fines of $10,000 to $100,000 for each violation and other remedies the federal government may deem appropriate. The penalties could include loss of the particular award and suspension or debarment as an institution from further federal funding.

At the time of proposal submission or prior to receipt of an award, the Office of Sponsored Research routinely submits a certification that the Institute has not lobbied. If you or any of your staff are aware of any facts that make this certification inaccurate, please let us know immediately.

What does this mean, practically? 

No one may, while paid with federal funds or using award funds for travel expenses, urge an agency to support a specific proposal. It is acceptable to ask "when will a decision be made on my proposal?" It is not acceptable to describe why your proposal should be funded rather than some other one.

If the government asks you to provide inpidual technical or professional services, that is not lobbying. You might want to  protect yourself by asking, "This would not be considered lobbying, would it?"

A university administrator may describe general outstanding research characteristics of the institution, or even describe the wonderful work going on in a department or school, but may not say (unless asked to report that activity to the government) "I'd like to describe the activities of Professor Y and encourage you to consider making an award for this research” if Professor Y has a proposal pending to the agency to which the administrator is talking.

The regulation identifies certain persons as "regular employees" of an institution and allows them more freedom to discuss research activities with agencies than it allows non-employee "lobbyists.” A regular employee is an inpidual who has been employed 130 days by the institution during the previous 12 months. Faculty and others new to the Institute should keep in mind this "130 day rule" and be careful about talking to agencies about specific research projects until they have been at the Institute for at least 130 days.

It is not the intent of the regulation to prohibit the normal interchange between a faculty member and a program officer at an agency. However, there is no clear line marking where optimistic discussion of research progress ends and discussion of a new or renewal award begins. Federal program officer have received training on this matter and should know when to cut off discussion, but the responsibility is a joint one. If you are unsure, ask.

In addition, the Department of Energy (DOE) has placed a high priority on these statutory requirements and has issued its own brochure entitled "Lobbying...What You Need to Know As A ... Contractor, Cooperative Agreement Participant, or Grantee." This information is available by following the appropriate links from the DOE.   A copy of this regulation can be obtained from the Office of Sponsored Programs.

Lobbying - Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Lobbyist?

Any inpidual who is employed or retained by a client for financial or other compensation for services that include more than one lobbying contact, other than an inpidual whose lobbying activities constitute less than 20% of the time engaged in the services provided by such inpidual to that client over a 3 month period.  (Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995, Section 3 (10))

What Constitutes a Lobbying Activity?

Oral, written or electronic communications to a covered Legislative or Executive Branch Official in an attempt to influence:

  • The formulation, modification, or adoption of Federal legislation but only if the principal purpose of the communication is to influence legislation
  • The administration or execution of a Federal program or policy
  • Formulation, modification, or adoption of a Federal rule, regulation, Executive order, policy or position of the United States Government
  • The nomination or confirmation of a person subject to confirmation by the Senate
  • To be considered “lobbying,” the communication must also:
    • Refer to specific legislation
    • Reflect a view on such legislation, and
    • In the case of communications to the general public, it must also encourage recipients to take action about specific legislation1 
       

What Does Not Constitute a Lobbying Activity? 

  • a speech, article, publication or other material that is distributed and made available to the public through a medium of mass communication;
  • a request for a meeting, a request for the status of an action, or other similar administrative request(s);
  • testimony given before Congress or submitted for inclusion in the public record;
  • information provided in writing in response to an oral or written request, or in response to a request for public comments in the Federal Register;
  • required by subpoena or civil investigative demand;
  • written comment filed in the course of a public proceeding;
  • made by the media if the purpose is gathering and disseminating news and information to the public
     

Who is Considered a Covered Official

  • Covered Legislative Branch official includes: members of Congress; an elected officer of either House of Congress; employees of a Member, Committee, leadership staff, joint committee, working group or caucus
  • Covered Executive Branch Official includes; The President; the Vice President; any officer or employee in the Executive Office of the President; any Executive Schedule level l-V officer or employee; any member of the armed services at or above pay grade 0-7 & above; and any Schedule C political appointees
     

Lobbying Activities That Must be Reported

Lobbying activities means lobbying contacts AND efforts in support of such contacts including preparation and planning activities, research and other background work that is intended, at the time it is performed, for use in contacts, and coordination with the lobbying activities of others.
 

1 A communication “encourages a recipient to take action” when it:

  • States that the recipient should contact legislators or other government employees who may participate in the formulation of legislation for the purpose of influencing legislation
  • States a legislator’s address, phone number, or similar information
    Provides a petition, tear-off postcard, or similar material for the recipient to send to a legislator, or
  • Specifically identifies one or more legislators who will vote on legislation as opposing Stevens’ view on the legislation, being undecided about the legislation, being the recipient’s representative in the legislature, or being a member of the legislative committee that will consider the legislation
     

Lobbying Activities - Practical Examples

Examples of Lobbying Contact

Stevens' employee Smith travels to Washington in his/her official capacity as an employee of the University and arranges Capitol Hill meetings to discuss the importance of funding for nanotechnology research.  The meetings with staff are considered lobbying contacts and should be reported to the University Legal Counsel for quarterly reporting.
Stevens' employee Smith telephones a covered federal official in the executive branch at Picatinny to advocate on behalf of a proposal for funding which the University submitted to the federal facility.  The contact is considered a lobbying contact and should be reported to the University Legal Counsel for quarterly reporting.
Stevens' employee Smith travels to Washington to meet with a covered DOD official regarding the renewal of a government contract.  Employee Smith does not meet the definition of a lobbyist because he/she does not spend 20% of his/her time on lobbying activities during a quarterly period; nonetheless, the expenses reasonably allocable to employee Smith's lobbying activities (i.e., plant ticket to Washington, costs, time spent preparing materials, etc.) should be reported to the University Legal Counsel for quarterly reporting.

Lobbying activities include:

  • Formulation, modification, or adoption of Federal legislation
  • The administration or execution of a Federal program or policy
  • Formulation, modification, or adoption of a Federal rule, regulation, Executive order, policy or position of the United States Government
  • The nomination or confirmation of a person subject to confirmation by the Senate

Examples of Circumstances NOT Considered to be Lobbying

Stevens' employee Smith has a contract to provide technical assistance to the Air Force on an ongoing basis.  Technical communications between employee Smith and covered officials at the Air Force would be required by the contract and therefore would not be considered lobbying contacts.  NOTE:  if uncertain, one should ask the question, "This would not be considered lobbying, would it?"
Stevens' employee Smith is asked to testify before a Congressional Committee in Washington.  Employee Smith's travel to Washington, the meeting and subsequent participation in the hearing would not be considered lobbying contacts.
In a conversation with a federal agency, the Executive Director of OSR, or other university administrator, may describe general outstanding research characteristics of the institution, or even comment on and describe the excellent work going on in Department X, but may not say (unless asked to specifically report that same activity to the government), "I would like to describe the activities of Dr. Y and encourage you to consider making an award for this research," if Dr. Y has a proposal  pending to the agency to which the Stevens' administrator is talking.  
Lobbying activities do not include:

  • A speech, article, publication or other material that is distributed and made available to the public through a medium of communication
  • A request for a meeting, a request for the status of an action, or other similar administrative request
  • Testimony given before Congress or submitted for inclusion in the public record
  • Information provided in writing in response to an oral or written request, or in response to a request for public comments in the Federal Register
  • Required by subpoena or civil investigative demand
  • Written comment filed in the course of a public proceeding made by the media if the purpose is gathering and disseminating news and information to the public

General Information Regarding Lobbying

  • When accounting for lobbying activities, one should include time (specify in hours or days) and out-of-pocket expenses spent preparing and planning such activities.  Inpiduals who have helped in preparations should also complete a report.  Students are excluded because they are not agents of the University.
  • Activities related to an employee's personal, professional, or civic interests, as long as they are not on behalf of the University are not reportable and should not be reported to the University Legal Counsel for quarterly reporting.
  • It is not the intent of the regulation to prohibit the normal interchange between a faculty member and a program officer at an agency.  However, there is no clear line marking where optimistic discussion of research progress ends and discussion of a new or renewal award begins.  Although federal program officers have received training on this matter and should know when to cut off discussion, the responsibility is a joint one.  If the faculty member is unsure, he/she should ask if the program officer feels they are being lobbied.