Resources »  Glossary

The following are some common terms and industry-related terminology associated with lobbying. To find a specific term, you may either scan the list or click a letter below.

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527 Group: Named after the tax code in which they fall under, these groups raise money specifically for issue advocacy. Some of these groups (such as the Service Employees International Union) are also involved in lobbying. Also known as political organizations.


Bundling: Practice of one lobbyist gathering campaign contributions from a group of colleagues and presenting the resulting “bundle” to lawmakers. Under HLOGA, candidate committees, leadership PACs and federal party committees are required to disclose to the Federal Election Commission the names of individual lobbyists, registered lobbying entities, or PACs maintained by lobbyists or lobbying entities that donate bundled contributions of $15,000 or more. Registrant PACs and Leadership PACs were required to identify themselves as such on FEC Form 1 no later than March 29, 2009. Links to information regarding the new rules, related forms and committee filings are here, at the FEC’s site.


Client: In cases where a lobbying firm or other organization represents a person's or group's interests, the person or group being represented is considered the client.

Coalition: Alliance of groups united for a cause. Some coalitions are independent; others who lobby Congress are affiliated with lobbying firms. (Example: Coalition for Affordable and Reliable Health Care, which is based out of the office of the firm Barbour and Griffith). Coalitions are required to disclose their members in their Lobbying Disclosure Act filings, per provisions in the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act.

Constituent Event: An exception to the gift rule. Congressional members or staff may attend this type of event for free as long as there are more than 5 constituents also attending and any meal provided to a Congressional guest is less than $50. Lobbyists are not permitted to attend these events.

"Cooling Off": Refers to the lobbying restrictions in place after a Member or staffer leaves the Hill and joins the private sector. House Members must wait a year to lobby Congress and Senators must wait two years, while staff have different restrictions imposed on them. Executive branch employees must certify, per President Obama’s January 2009 executive order, that they will not lobby the Obama Administration after leaving government.

Covered Executive Branch Official: Varies depending on whether an organization files under the Lobbying Disclosure Act or the Internal Revenue Code on its LD-2. Under the LDA, covered executive branch officials include the following: the president, vice president, all employees of the Executive Office of the President, those who serve as a Level I-IV employee according to the Executive Schedule (generally "Schedule C" employees), "any member of the uniformed services whose pay grade is at or above O-7", and those "who serve in a position of a confidential, policy-determining, policy-making, or policy-advocating character."

The IRC has a much narrower definition of a covered executive branch official. Under that method of reporting, a covered executive branch official is one of the following: the president, vice president, all employees in the White House office of the Executive Office of the President, and the top two senior officials at each agency and Cabinet-level departments.


Covered Legislative Branch Official: Generally, this refers to Members and all staff and elected officers of the House and Senate. This definition applies to organizations filing reports under the LDA and IRC methods.



De minimis: “Negligible or inconsequential” involvement in planning trips, according to the House and Senate gift rules. Lobbyists are prohibited from significantly planning trips for members of Congress unless it is “de minimis.” Consequently, if a lobbyist were to be on a trip with a member of Congress, that lobbyist’s involvement must be de minimis. The Senate Ethics Committee has interpreted the gift rule to mean that a lobbyist could attend a widely attended event which is part of a member’s trip, because the trip sponsor would not know all of the attendees of an event.


Earmarks: Known to some as “pork barrel,” Congressmen use this tool to direct spending to individual projects. Lobbyists work on behalf of their organization or clients to insert funding for their interests into appropriations bills. This practice has become controversial, and one of the components of the lobbying reform bill is a  requirement for Congressmen to link their names to a submitted earmark or amendment at least 48 hours before the bill that it has been placed in comes to a vote.


An example of a famous earmark: “the bridge to nowhere,” a pet project of Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) that would have linked a bridge from the mainland of Alaska to an island of 50 people.


Federal Candidate Committee: Considered the official PAC of each federal candidate, whether for a Congressional or presidential candidate. This is also called a candidate's authorized PAC. Lobbyists and registered lobbying entities (or any PACs that either control) that contribute $200 or more to a federal candidate committee must disclose these contributions on the LD-203. See “Bundling,” above.

First Amendment: The first amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects (among other things, including freedom of religion and freedom of speech), the right to petition. The citizens’ ability to petition the government “for a redress of grievances” is the essential premise behind lobbying.


Foreign Agent Registration Act (FARA): This law requires any lobbyist who represents a foreign government, elected official or political party as a foreign agent to file his financial information and published materials with the Department of Justice. This only applies to foreign public officials; lobbyists representing foreign private companies register under the LDA. See the full text of the law, forms, and other disclosure requirements at


Gift: While a gift is an item presented to someone without expecting something in return, this becomes controversial when they are given to members of Congress. Gifts can mean anything from a free meal to quicker service for air conditioning repair and even free movie showings. The Rules of the Senate define a gift as “any gratuity, favor, discount, entertainment, hospitality, loan, forbearance, or other item having monetary value” which includes “services, training, transportation, lodging, and meals.” Lobbyists and lobbying organizations are banned from giving gifts to congressional members and staff unless they fall under one of the exceptions to the gift rule, some of which include:



•   Items of little intrinsic value (i.e. t-shirt)

•   Honorary degrees

•   Gifts based on personal friendship


Organizations which do not employ lobbyists are subject to a individual gift limit of $49.99 and an annual limit of $99.99, but a non-lobbyist at an organization may not be used to try to circumvent the gift rule.
Similarly, a gift is defined by the executive branch as any item with a monetary value, and is banned from being given by "prohibited sources." However, there are exceptions specifically in the law for small items with little intrinsic value, such as greeting cards and soft drinks.


Grassroots: Term used to describe action with a wide level of citizen engagement. Examples of grassroots advocacy include a union or association encouraging its members to contact a Member of Congress on a particular issue, typically with a particular policy objective in mind. Examples of other popular grassroots actions include letters to the editor, attendance at rallies, or signing petitions.

“Grassroots lobbyist”: This person is a “citizen lobbyist.” (See definition for “Grassroots,” above). Organizations such as the Sierra Club or the Heritage Foundation encourage their members to contact their Congressman on an issue, write letters to the editor, sign petitions, or attend rallies. These citizen lobbyists do not need to register under the federal Lobbying Disclosure Act if they only engage in grassroots activities. However, some states do require the disclosure of grassroots lobbying.



Honest Leadership and Open Government Act (HLOGA): Passed in 2007 as an amendment to the Lobbying Disclosure Act, this law expanded disclosure requirements for lobbyists and Members of Congress. Lobbyists must now file quarterly reports of lobbying activities and state in a semi-annual certification that they have read, understand, and not violated House or Senate gift and travel rules. They must also detail in their semi-annual reports any contributions to political campaigns or to events to recognize a Member if the total spent during the filing period exceeds $200. On the other hand, Members of Congress must disclose any sponsorship of earmarks. Other provisions of HLOGA relate to lobbyists’ spending on gifts and travel for Members, and an expansion in the “cooling off” period for former Senators looking for private sector positions.


Industry Trade Advisory Committee: ITACs, a type of federal advisory committee, were created by Congress in 1974 as “a unique public-private partnership jointly managed by the U.S. Department of Commerce and the Office of United States Trade Representative that engages business leaders in formulating U.S. trade policy.” ITACs made news in 2009, when in September, the Obama Administration banned the appointment of federally-registered lobbyists to the committees.


Internal Revenue Code (IRC): An alternate method for associations and corporations to report their lobbying expenditures on the LD-2. This method provides a narrower range of people who are considered covered executive branch officials, but requires that expenditures for grassroots lobbying and lobbying at the state-level be added into the total amount reported, (which is not required under the LDA filing method).


K Street Project: After the Republican takeover of Congress in 1994, Tom DeLay, at the time House Majority Whip, helped ensure that industries and businesses were hiring Republicans for their government relations positions. “K Street” in downtown Washington is home to many lobbyists.


LD-1: A form used by lobbying firms to register clients and by organizations employing in-house lobbyists to register themselves. The Lobbying Disclosure Act requires this to be filed with the Secretary of the Senate within 45 days of either the hiring date of a lobbyist to make a lobbying contact or when a lobbyist makes a second lobbying contact. Forms are available at the Senate Office of Public Records.

LD-2: A form used by any organization that is registered under the Lobbying Disclosure Act to either:
a) report the amount of income that a firm received from each of its separate clients
b) report the amount of expenditures that an organization employing its own lobbyists spent in relation to its lobbying activities

This form is required to be filed quarterly by the 20th of April (for the period of Jan. 1-March 31), July (for the period of April 1-June 30), October (for the period of July 1-Sept. 30), and January (for the period of Oct. 1-Dec. 31), unless that date falls on a Sunday or a holiday. Forms are available at the Senate Office of Public Records.


LD-203: A form individual lobbyists must file detailing their contributions equal to or more than $200 to candidate committees, leadership PACs and federal party committees, as well as contributions to entities controlled or named after covered legislative branch officials, and events held in honor of a covered legislative branch official. Individual lobbyists are also required to verify that they have read and understood the House and Senate Gift Rules and did not give a gift in violation of those rules. This form is required to be filed with the Secretary of the Senate on a semi-annual basis on July 30 and Jan. 30.

Leadership PAC: Non-connected PAC for a candidate that is set up independently of the authorized federal candidate committee. Lobbyists, registrant organizations and PACs affiliated with registered lobbyists or lobbying organizations are required to disclose any contributions of $200 or more on their LD-203 forms.


Lobbying Disclosure Act (LDA): Passed in 1995 and amended by the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act (HLOGA) in 2007, this bill requires those who engage in lobbying activities to register and file quarterly reports with the Clerk of the House and the Senate Office of Public Records. Organizations which are strictly lobbying firms must file reports and registrations for each client that paid the firm more than $2,500 in a three-month timeframe, listing all employees of the firm who have done work on behalf of a client. Organizations which employ in-house lobbyists must file if the amount of money they spend on lobbying exceeds $10,000 within a three-month period.

Lobbyist: Person who advocates on behalf of himself or a client to pass a law or to make changes to a bill being considered in a federal or state legislative body, or to help shape policy in the executive branch and its regulatory departments. Lobbyists can come from either the private sector or from a legislative affairs department in a federal agency. There are two types of lobbyists: grassroots and professional. The House and Senate includes in its "Guide to the Lobbying Disclosure Act" a definition of a lobbyist as: “any individual (1) who is either employed or retained by a client for financial or other compensation; (2) whose services include more than one lobbying contact; and (3) whose lobbying activities constitute 20 percent or more of his or her services during a three-month period.” If this is the case, then this person must register as a lobbyist under the Lobbying Disclosure Act.



Multicandidate Political Action Committee: A multicandidate committee can partake in more activities than a non-multicandidate committee. For a PAC to be classified as a multicandidate committee, it must have been registered with the FEC for 6 months,  received contributions from more than 50 people, and contributed to five candidates. At that point, the PAC may give $5,000, instead of the $2,300 limit for non-multicandidate PACs. For the definition of PAC, please see below.


National Party Committee: Refers to one of the six national party organizations: the Democratic National Committee (DNC), Democratic Congressional Candidate Committee (DCCC), Democratic Senatorial Candidate Committee (DSCC), Republican National Committee (RNC), National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) and National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC). Lobbyists, organizations and PACs controlled by lobbyists or organizations are required to disclose any amounts of $200 or more that were contributed to either of these committees.

Nonconnected PAC: Political action committee that is not linked to a specific organization. All expenses for fundraising, administration and contributions are required to be disclosed, in contrast to a separate segregated fund (SSF), in which administrative and fundraising expenses do not require disclosure.


Past Executive Branch and Congressional Employment: Refers to the 20-year "lookback" and disclosure of covered positions held in the past 20 years which lobbyists must make on the LD-2 if they are either new to an organization or if they register new clients. Before HLOGA, lobbyists were only required to look back two years.


"Pay-to-Play": Refers to laws restricting or banning campaign contributions from companies that seek out or already have won procurements or contracts from the government. These laws are more commonly found at the state level. The following states have enacted "pay-to-play" laws: Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Kentucky, New Jersey, Ohio, South Carolina, West Virginia.

“Personal Friendship”: An exception in the House and Senate gift rules that is often misunderstood. According to the gift rules, the personal friendship exception can only be applied to a gift under several circumstances: (1) a history of a relationship and gift exchange must exist between the lobbyist and Congressional recipient, (2) the lobbyist paid for the gift him/herself and was not reimbursed for the gift, (3) the same gift was not given to other Congressional Members or staffers.


Political Action Committee (PAC): Generally, political action committees are seen as the fundraising arms of candidates and various organizations. PACs use money contributed to them for election-related expenditures, for the most part. There are limits as to how much people can contribute to a PAC in a year, and there are also limits to how much a PAC can give to another PAC. There are several types of PACs:


“Professional lobbyist”: According to the Lobbying Disclosure Act (LDA), this refers to a person who is compensated by an outside client or by his employer to lobby the government. This person typically engages in direct contact with elected officials.

Within this category there are two different types of lobbyists:

In-House lobbyist: This person is employed by an organization to lobby on behalf of its own interests. Examples of organizations that would employ in-house lobbyists: AARP, National Rifle Association, U.S. Telecom Association.
Outside (or contract) lobbyist: This person is employed by a lobbying or consulting firm and is retained by an outside organization to lobby on its behalf. Examples of lobbying firms: Cassidy and Associates, Patton Boggs, The Livingston Group. 

Proxy Tax: Tax paid by associations that are registered to lobby if they do not disclose to their members the amount or percentage of their dues which go toward lobbying and, therefore, would be nondeductible.


Registrant: An organization that registers with the Secretary of the Senate or the Clerk of the House as either lobbying on behalf of another organization (e.g., a lobbying firm representing a client) or lobbying on its own interests. Registrant organizations are required to file lobbying financial disclosure reports and contribution reports.

Revolving door: Describes the transition of serving in Congress to working as a lobbyist. Critics see this as negative, because this allows congressional leaders to lobby their former colleagues. To prevent conflicts of interest, the House has enacted a one-year ban on former members from lobbying their peers. Former senators may not be involved in lobbying activities for two years as of Jan. 1, 2008. House and Senate staffers are banned for a year from lobbying their former employer; committee staffers are banned for a year from lobbying anyone who served on the committee on which they worked.


Separate Segregated Fund (SSF): PAC set up by a corporation, labor union or membership organization, as they are prohibited by law from directly contributing to a candidate committee. SSFs must be sponsored by an entity, and in terms of fundraising, they can generally only solicit certain people at the organization, known as the "restricted class." SSFs are also not responsible for reporting the administrative costs for their maintenance.


Think Tank: Private organization which does not actively engage in lobbying, but conducts research in order to create policies. Examples: Heritage Foundation, Center for Strategic and International Studies.


Widely Attended Event: One of the exceptions to the Gift Rules of the House and Senate. Organizations employing lobbyists may sponsor a widely attended event  which must contain a diverse audience of more than 25 people and must be related to a Member's or staffer's official duties in order for a Member or staffer to attend for free.

Last updated 10.1.2010