Persons Required to Register
SB539 did not change the existing rule that “any natural person who, for compensation or otherwise, undertakes to lobby, or any person or entity who employs or compensates another person for the purposes of lobbying, shall register with the Secretary of State.” Thus, individuals (and their employer) that meet the definition of “lobbyist” or “lobbying entity” because they “lobby” a “covered” state or local official must register with the Secretary of State every year, even if lobbying is a small portion of their job. (Review the definitions for these and other key terms in the chart below.) Annual registration, which includes a simple, online basic ethics and sexual harassment training module, must occur before any lobbying occurs and within two business days after the lobbyist is employed or retained. There is no grace period for registration or training.
Persons NOT Required to Register
There are several exemptions to lobbyist registration provided in the Illinois Administrative Code. These exemptions may be clarified or updated in response to SB539; as of this writing, there are no changes to exemption rules for 2022. Forefront will track proposed changes and provide updates as needed. Send questions to eLobbyist@ilsos.gov.
State Lobbying: New “Covered” Officials and Agencies
SB539 added the Deputy Governor, the Deputy Secretary of State, the Deputy Attorney General, the Deputy Treasurer, and the Deputy Comptroller to the list of covered state officials. Since these additions may impact many nonprofits that communicate regularly with these officials but who may not have previously registered as lobbyists, we’ve requested examples from the IL SOS of what does and does not constitute lobbying under these new terms. See definitions table below.
Local Government Lobbying: New “Covered” Officials and Registration/Reporting Requirements
SB539 expanded the state’s lobbying rules to require IL SOS registration for lobbying local governments, excluding the City of Chicago (see below). The definition of covered local “officials” now includes:
- Mayors, presidents, aldermen, commissioners and trustees of a city, village or town
- County board members and countywide elected officials
- Township board members and township elected officials
- Members of any board, commission, authority, or task force, that has the authority to make binding recommendations or determinations, created by a local ordinance or order of a mayor, or village or town president
This is an important change for downstate stakeholders. Even if you do not lobby the State government, if you lobby at the local level, you must now register as a lobbyist with the State. Since many nonprofits communicate regularly with their local, township, and county governments (e.g., regarding joint programming and grant contracts), we’ve requested examples from the IL SOS of what does and does not constitute lobbying when communicating with local officials for purposes such as these. See definitions table below.
- Website: City of Chicago Board of Ethics
- Registration: Due annually by January 20th or within 5 days of first engaging in lobbying activity
- Fees: $350 per person + $75 per client (if applicable); Fees waived for 501(c)3s that can provide required documentation
- Reports: Due quarterly on January 20, April 20, July 20, and October 20
- Contact: 312.744.9660
SB539 amended the Illinois Governmental Ethics Act and the Lobbyist Registration Act while granting a unique exception to municipalities with a population over 500,000. Thus, Chicago may continue to regulate lobbyists lobbying the City of Chicago, while the revised state rules supersede all other existing local government laws and ordinances. There are no substantive changes to the requirements or processes enforced in Chicago pursuant to SB539. Additionally, as stated in this 9/2/21 memo from the Board of Ethics, Chicago’s own unique rules related to nonprofit lobbying registration and related penalties, which went into effect in 2019, are currently not being enforced, though the Board of Ethics encourages registration by persons paid to lobby the City. For examples about what does and does not constitute lobbying according to the City, see opinions 19037.A.1-3, 20003.A, and 20009.A on the list of Advisory Opinions. Please note the following if you lobby the City of Chicago:
- Regardless of where you are located, nonprofits are encouraged to register on the City of Chicago Board of Ethicswebsite.
- If a nonprofit only lobbies the City of Chicago and does not lobby the state or other local government entities, you do not need to register with the Secretary of State.
- Organizations that conduct lobbying activities at the state or local level in addition to Chicago must also register with the IL SOS (see above).
- Organizations that lobby the State but do not lobby the City of Chicago do not need to register with the Chicago Board of Ethics, even if they are located in Chicago.
While the term “grassroots lobbying” itself does not appear in the text of SB539, the act expands the definition of lobbying to include “soliciting of others to communicate” with the ultimate purpose of influencing executive, legislative, or administrative action at the state, municipal, county, or township level. However, the definition of “soliciting others to communicate” specifically exempts “the making of a grant” by a 501(c)3 as well as “communication … to the public or a segment thereof or to its members….” by a 501(c)3 or 501(c)6. 501(c)4s are not exempted from any of these provisions and are therefore subject to the new requirements. The IL SOS confirmed this interpretation.
SB539 added consultant compensation to the definition of reportable compensation under the Lobbyist Registration Act (see definitions chart). Thus, nonprofit organizations that retain a consultant(s) may need to disclose the consultant’s services and expenditures on IL SOS lobbying reports within two days of retaining the consultant. The lobbying entity must identify whether the consultant provides services for administrative, executive, and legislative branch agencies. A consultant is not required to register as a lobbyist for providing advisory services. However, if in the course of providing services as a consultant, the consultant makes a lobbying contact with a covered official, or makes an item of expenditure on behalf of or benefiting a covered official, the consultant will be required to register as a lobbyist. Reportable expenses include expenses by an employee of the consultant if applicable. Consultants should report expenses to the lobbying entity for inclusion in the lobbying entity’s semi-monthly expenditure report to the state.
May be subject to change via administrative rule. Forefront will update this chart as needed.