Q: As a lobbying entity, how do I know if I have a requirement to electronically file my lobbying reports?
Entities including a) lobbying firms; b) lobbyist employers; c) lobbyists; d) lobbying coalitions; and e) all other persons (including placement agents) who spend $2,500 or more to influence legislative or state agency administrative action who meet the threshold requirements listed below are only required to file their disclosure reports electronically. However registration documents must still be filed both electronically and on paper.
Q: What specific lobbying reports am I required to file electronically?
Once a filer reaches the $2,500 threshold that triggers electronic filing, all subsequent filings are required to be filed electronically. These reports include those filed by lobbyist employers, lobbying coalitions, lobbying firms, and persons spending $5,000 or more to influence legislative or administrative action.
Q: If I am required to file electronically, am I still required to file paper copies with the Secretary of State? Are both the original and one paper copy still required to be filed?
If you are a qualified lobbying e-filer whose payments made or received exceed $2,500 in a calendar quarter, you need only file the required quarterly disclosure reports electronically (or online). However, all lobbying registration documents must still be filed both electronically and by paper (an original and one copy).
Q: Once I have met the qualifying activity threshold, would I ever be required to electronically file any reports retroactively?
No, but all future reports must be filed electronically.
Q: If I do not meet the qualifying activity threshold, can I electronically file lobbying reports with the Secretary of State on a voluntary basis at any time?
Yes. You may voluntarily file electronic lobbying reports through an approved electronic filing vendor or online at any time. You will need to get a logon password and ID from the Secretary of State in order to electronically file. The application for obtaining these passwords and ID's is on the Secretary of State's web site at the Electronic Filing Information page. However, once you file electronically, all subsequent reports must be filed electronically.
Q: What is my first deadline to file electronically?
Assuming that you have met the $2,500 activity threshold, the report is due 30 days after the close of the quarter in which the qualifying activity occurred. Filing deadline dates are April 30, July 31, October 31 and January 31.
Q: Do lobbyists incur separate electronic filing obligations?
No. Lobbyists file their required Form 615 as an attachment to either the report of lobbyist employer (Form 635) or lobbying firm (Form 625) (See Gov. Code 86114 (a) (4) and Gov. Code 86116 (e)). As a result, if a lobbyist employer or lobbying firm is required to file electronically, it also must file any attached Form 615's electronically.
Q: Do the clients of a lobbying firm incur separate electronic filing obligations?
When a lobbying firm incurs electronic filing obligations, the clients of such a firm do not automatically incur separate electronic filing obligations. Rather, the client must qualify on its own by meeting the dollar activity threshold for that quarter before incurring separate electronic filing obligations apart from the firm. Once qualified, the electronic filing obligation is on-going.
Q: Must a lobbying firm or employer count contributions previously disclosed on their major donor or sponsored PAC campaign statement toward the qualifying dollar threshold for purposes of determining the firm's or employer's electronic filing duties?
It depends on whether the information has already been reported on a campaign statement on file with the Secretary of State. If a lobbying firm or lobbyist employer is a major donor or has a sponsored committee, and if all the campaign contributions made by the lobbying firm or lobbyist employer were already disclosed, then the total amount of the campaign contributions previously disclosed are not required to be itemized on the lobbying firm's or lobbyist employer's quarterly report and, therefore, don't trigger electronic filing requirements. Conversely, contributions which have not previously been reported, and which are required to be itemized on the lobbying report are still counted toward the qualifying dollar or activity threshold for electronic filing.
Q: If a firm or employer does not meet the $2,500 threshold for electronic filing, are reports still required to be filed on paper?
Yes, absolutely. The filing requirements and schedules have not changed. Electronic filing is simply a new, additional way of filing.