The Great Seal of the State of Montana

Lobbying FAQ

What is meant by "lobbying?"

Lobbying is defined as “the practice of promoting or opposing the introduction or enactment of legislation before the legislature or legislators” (MCA 5-7-102(11)). Individuals who engage in these described activities may qualify as a lobbyist and be required to register as such.

Do you have lists of all the lobbyists and groups that lobby in Montana's legislative session?

Yes – anyone meeting the definition of lobbyist is required to register, and that information is available. Click here to go straight to the search. (Those who aren’t paid to lobby aren’t required to register under current law, so there’s no information readily available.)

I want to get involved with lobbying. Do I need to register?

Not everyone who engages in lobbying activity is required to register as a lobbyist under Montana law. The term lobbyist does not include:

      • 1- an individual acting solely on the individual´s own behalf,
        2- an individual who is not paid, or
        3- someone who is paid a total less than $2,600* to lobby in 2019.

You need to register as a lobbyist if:

      • 1- You are paid or will be paid over $2,600* to lobby in 2019, or
        2- You are a principal who plans to spend more than $2,600.*
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  • To register as a lobbyist, you must complete three steps:

  • Step 1: The lobbyist must register with the Commissioner of Political Practices by submitting a L-1 lobbyist license application (more details here). The L-1 application lists the name of the principal(s) the lobbyist will be working for, as well as the subject(s) or issue(s) the applicant will be lobbying for or against. A lobbyist must register within five business days after entering into an oral or written agreement to receive payment(s) of $2,600* or more or after receiving payment(s) of $2,600* or more for the purposes of lobbying the legislature.

    Step 2: Pay the $150.00 lobbyist registration fee. This can be paid by either the principal on behalf of the lobbyist or the lobbyist personally. There is an option to apply for a waiver if the fee presents a hardship (more details here).

    Step 3: The principal must file an L-2 Principal Authorization Statement or L-3 Principal Registration Application. This document authorizes the lobbyist to lobby on behalf of the principal.

  • How to register as a principal

  • You must register as a principal if you make payments or agrees to make payments exceeding $2,600* in a calendar year for the purpose of lobbying must complete and file a “Principal Authorization Statement.”   Businesses, associations, government agencies and others who pay lobbyists to work on their behalf are also principals (See § 5-7-208 and 5-7-112, MCA; and § 44.12.202, ARM for more information.).

  • To decide what Principal Authorization Statement you need to fill out, ask:

  1. -Have you paid or intend to pay more than $2,600* to an individual lobbyist to lobby on your behalf? If so, you must file a Principal Authorization Statement, form L-2 (more details here), for each lobbyist you pay at least $2,600.
  2. -Have you paid or intend to pay more than $2,600to individuals to lobby on your behalf, but will not pay any individual lobbyist $2,600? If so, you must file a Principal Registration Application, form L-3 (more details here).

What are important legal requirements for those who plan to lobby?

How long is a lobbying license valid for?

A Montana lobbying license is valid for two years. The term is based on the legislative session year (odd-numbered year), and the license expires December 31st of the even-numbered year. 

I'm a county commissioner. Do I need to register as a lobbyist before I lobby the legislature?

No. Under Montana law, certain government officials including local elected officials are exempted from the definition of lobbying and therefore aren’t required to register as lobbyists. The exemption is found in § 5-7-102(11)(b), MCA

Do state employees follow lobbying laws?

Yes. There is no exemption for state employees – state government comes under the same lobbying requirements as everyone else. Certain public officials, including elected or appointed state officials, fall under the same exemption as certain local government officials found in § 5-7-102(11)(b), MCA. The definition of public official in this instance is found in § 5-7-102(16)(a), MCA.

This 2019 State Employee Lobbying Guide covers lobbying details for state employees. Other government employees should reference this Government Employee Lobbying Guide.

What is required for a principal?

Any “principal” who makes payments or agrees to make payments exceeding $2,600* in a calendar year for the purpose of lobbying must complete and file a “Principal Authorization Statement.”   Businesses, associations, government agencies and others who pay lobbyists to work on their behalf are also principals (See § 5-7-208 and 5-7-112, MCA; and § 44.12.202, ARM for more information.).

To decide what Principal Authorization Statement you need to fill out, ask:

    • -Have you paid or intend to pay more than $2,600* to an individual lobbyist to lobby on your behalf? If so, you must file a Principal Authorization Statement, form L-2 (more details here), for each lobbyist who you pay at least $2,600.
    • -Have you paid or intend to pay more than $2,600* to individuals to lobby on your behalf, but will not pay any individual lobbyist that amount? If so, you must file a Principal Registration Application, form L-3 (more details here).

      If you are the principal to multiple lobbyists, reference this 2019 Lobbying Scenario guide to see example scenarios.

Does Montana allow grassroots lobbying?

In Montana, there is no current regulation of what is typically understood to be grassroots lobbying. The term grassroots lobbying generally describes efforts by a business, political committee or other organization to encourage others, including the general public, to engage in direct communication with a public official to influence official action. Grassroots lobbying often involves letter writing or e-mail campaigns, mailings, phone banks, or other mass communication.

Do grassroots lobbying activities need to be reported on lobby spending reports?

Generally not. Consider the following three examples – they describe what’s typically understood to be grassroots lobbying, and no reporting is required under current law for all but the fourth example below:

Example 1:  Corporation X sends postcards to people urging them to contact state officials/legislators to either support or oppose proposed or pending legislation.

Example 2: Corporation X hires a consultant to go door-to-door and call individuals and retailers of Corporation X's product to urge them to contact state officials/legislators to support or oppose proposed or pending legislation.

Example 3: Organization Y-X contracts with a vendor of phone-banking services to call potential supporters or the public to urge them to contact state officials/legislators to support or oppose proposed or pending legislation.

Example 4:Organization Y-X sends pre-printed postcards to people, ready for mailing to specified state officials or legislators, urging them to merely sign their names and forward the postcards to the designated recipient. This next example illustrates a more direct form of lobbying and would therefore be a reportable expense subject to public disclosure under Montana law.

I'm filing a lobbying report. Is it possible to get an extension on the due date?

No. Lobbying reports must be received by 5:00 p.m. MST on filing day. Reports must be submitted electronically via the COPP website in the lobbyist database, or via mail (P.O. Box 202401, Helena, MT 59620-2401), via fax (406-444-1643), or delivered in person to the COPP office (1209 8th Avenue, Helena, MT). Please keep in mind that all reports MUST be received by the due date. The fee for late fillings is a $50 per day fine, up to $2,500.

Who can I contact with lobbying questions?

Contact the Commissioner of Political Practices Office at (406) 444-2942, email cpphelp@mt.gov, or stop by the office at 1209 8th Avenue in Helena.

*The threshold amount that a lobbyist can earn will increase from the 2017 amount to $2,550 to the 2019 amount of $2,600, effective on January 12, 2019.