Can you lobby the military?

Washington is abuzz with the resignation and replacement of Gen. Stanley McChrystal with Gen. David Petraeus as commander in Afghanistan (pending Petraeus’ Senate confirmation).

As lobbyists keep up with the changing environment, here’s a reminder: when lobbying top level executive branch officials, including those in the military, lobbying firms must disclose and report such lobbying contacts on their lobbying expenditures. ¬†According to the LDA statute,¬†“uniformed military personnel, rank 0-7 and above” are considered reportable.

What constitutes a lobbying contact? Almost all communications with an executive branch official would be considered reportable under LDA reporting guidelines, with a couple of statuatory exemptions:

  • A status request
  • A scheduling request
  • A contact made at a widely-attended event or as a member of the news media

If reporting lobbying expenditures (i.e., if you are a trade association or corporation with an in-house lobbyist for your own issues), the reporting rules vary if you opt for the LDA reporting or the Internal Revenue Code reporting. If you opt to use the LDA, the rules are the same as for someone reporting lobbying income. If you opt to use the IRC method, you do not have to report meeting with “members of the uniformed services serving at grade 0-7 or above.” However, be careful in when lobbying other executive branch officials – see below for some examples. You must report contacts with:

  • The President, Vice-President, any officer or employee of the Executive Office of the President (EOP)
  • The two most senior level officers of other agencies in the EOP
  • Cabinet officers (e.g., Secretary of Defense Robert Gates)
  • Any individual designated by the President as having Cabinet-level status
  • Immediate deputies of Cabinet level officials (e.g., Deputy Secretary of Defense William Lynn)

The information in this post is from the Lobbying Compliance Handbook.

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