Federal Lobbying: Differences in Lobbying Definitions and Their Impact

GGD-99-38 Published: Apr 15, 1999. Publicly Released: Apr 15, 1999.
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Pursuant to a legislative requirement, GAO reviewed the reporting of lobbying activities by organizations that have employees who lobby on the organizations' behalf and have the option to report their lobbying expenses under the Lobbying Disclosure Act (LDA) of 1995 or applicable Internal Revenue Code (IRC) provisions that they use for tax purposes, focusing on: (1) the differences between the LDA and IRC section 4911 and 162(e) definitions of lobbying; (2) the impact that differences in the definitions may have on registration and reporting under LDA, including information on the number of organizations using each definition and the expenses they have reported; and (3) identifying and analyzing options, including harmonizing the three definitions, that may better ensure that the public disclosure purposes of LDA are realized.

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Matter for Congressional Consideration

Matter Status Comments
If Congress believes that the inclusion of nonfederal lobbying expenses and the underreporting of lobbying efforts at the federal level due to the optional use of the Internal Revenue Code (IRC) lobbying definitions seriously detract from the Lobbying Disclosure Act's (LDA) purpose of public disclosure, then it should consider adopting one of two options. Congress could remove the authorization for organizations to use an IRC definition for reporting purposes. In this case, data reported to the Senate and House would adhere to the LDA definition, which Congress enacted specifically to achieve LDA's public reporting purpose. Alternatively, Congress could allow organizations to continue using the IRC definitions but require that they use only the expenses related to federal-level lobbying that those definitions yield when they register and report under LDA. The data reported would be more closely aligned with LDA's purpose of disclosing federal level lobbying efforts, but some differences would remain between the data so reported and the data that would result from applying only the LDA definition. If either of these options were considered, Congress would need to weigh the benefit of reporting that would be more closely aligned with LDA's public disclosure purpose against the additional reporting burden that some organizations would likely bear.
Closed – Not Implemented
As of June 2005, Congress has neither considered nor acted on the recommendation.

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