Q. 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” and “the practice of promoting or opposing official action of any public official of the legislature” (MCA 5-7-102(11)). Individuals who engage in these described activities may qualify as a lobbyist and be required to register as such.
Q. 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.)
Q. I plan to lobby. Do I need to register as a lobbyist?
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 the amount specified under 5-7-112, MCA in a calendar year. In 2017, this amount was $2,550. This amount may increase for the 2019 session and will be updated on this page.*
You need to register as a lobbyist if:
- 1- You are paid or will be paid over $2,550* to lobby in 2019, or
2- You are a principal who plans to spend more than $2,550.*
- Details about registering as a lobbyist are available at this Lobbyist Guide link.
Q. What are important legal requirements for those who plan to lobby?
To review Montana’s lobbying laws, see Title 5, Chapter 7 of the Montana Code Annotated (more details here) and the Lobbying Administrative Rules (ARM). You can also reference this 2019 Lobbyist Guide which goes over lobbyists' requirements.
Q. How long is a lobbying license valid for?
The lobby license is a two-year license. The term is based on the legislative session year (odd-numbered year), and the license expires December 31st of the even-numbered year.
Q. 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.
Q. 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.
Q. What is required for a principal?
Any “principal” who makes payments or agrees to make payments exceeding $2,550* 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 $2,550* to an individual lobbyist to lobby on your behalf? If so, you must file a Principal Authorization Statement, form L-2 (more details here).
-Have you paid or intend to pay more than $2,550* 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).
Q. 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.
Q. 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 likely be a reportable expense subject to public disclosure under Montana law.
Q. I'm filing a lobbying report. Is it possible to get an extension on the due date?
No. Lobbying reports must be received by midnight 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.
Q. Who can I contact with lobbying questions?
Contact the Commissioner of Political Practices Office at (406) 444-2942, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or stop by the office at 1209 8th Avenue in Helena.
*The current threshold amount may be updated from $2,550 to $2,600 for the 2019 legislative session (details here).