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Prior to the 1976 law, the only method available for nonprofits to report lobbying was the ambiguous “substantial part” test. This is a vague test with unclear definitions that prohibits nonprofits from engaging in a substantial amount of lobbying and requires onerous reporting burdens.
The 1976 law resulted in the creation of the 501(h) expenditure test, which must be affirmatively elected by a nonprofit. This test provides generous limits on the amount of money a nonprofit can spend on lobbying, as well as very clear and helpful definitions of what actions constitute lobbying. See the chart below, courtesy of CLPI, for the clear spending limits of the 1976 law.
Lobbying Ceilings under the 1976 Lobby Law
|Annual Exempt-Purpose Expenditures||Total Direct Lobbying Expenditures Allowable||Total Grassroots Lobbying Expenditures Allowable|
|Up to $500,000||20% of exempt-purpose expenditures up to $100,000||One-quarter of the total direct lobbying expenditure ceiling|
|$500,000 - $1 million||$100,000 + 15% of excess over $500,000||$25,000 + 3.75% of excess over $500,000|
|$1 million - $1.5 million||$175,000 + 10% of excess over $1 million||$43,750 + 2.5% of excess over $1 million|
|$1.5 million - $17 million||$225,000 + 5% of excess||$56,250 + 1.25% of excess over $1.5 million|
|Over $17 million||$1 million||$250,000|
Click here* for more details on direct lobbying vs. grassroots lobbying, courtesy of CLPI.
*Note: If you are a registered lobbyist in Connecticut (and ONLY if you are a registered lobbyist), please note that Connecticut state law does not differentiate between direct and grassroots lobbying. Both must be reported if the total amount spent on any combination of the two equals more than $2,000 per calendar year. Thresholds for registering as a lobbyist in CT are discussed in more detail below.
Click here* for more exclusions, courtesy of CLPI.
*Note: If you are a registered lobbyist in Connecticut (and ONLY if you are a registered lobbyist), please note that the section on “Executive Branch Contacts” in CLPI’s document, Important Lobbying Exclusions under the 1976 Law, does not apply to you in terms of reporting on your state-level lobbying activities. One important difference between federal and Connecticut state law is that the CT Office of State Ethics requires registered lobbyists to report administrative lobbying, which includes lobbying of the Executive Branch on regulatory matters. Again, this difference only pertains to registered lobbyists in Connecticut who report to the Office of State Ethics.
To determine if you or a staff member should be registered in CT, first add up all of the time spent by each employee in question on “lobbying” activities (e.g. – 5 minutes spent composing and sending an email to a legislator; 30 minutes spent having a face-to-face meeting with a legislator; 15 minutes spent composing an email to members or clients asking them to contact legislators; etc.) and then apply the hourly rate of the employee to the amount of time spent “lobbying.” If it comes out to more than $2,000 for the calendar year, that employee should be registered as a lobbyist with the CT Office of State Ethics.
For more information on registration requirements in CT, check the Office of State Ethics’ Fact Sheet .
Also, as an Executive Director, you know you can’t go it alone. You couldn’t provide direct services without your staff and you shouldn’t advocate without them either. Having your staff send a quick email to their legislators on an issue of critical importance to your services will help increase the impact of your organization’s advocacy efforts, which in turn will allow you to better serve your clients and consumers.
Most importantly, CT Nonprofits can help! Our staff is an extension of your team and that includes our dedicated policy staff. We keep members informed on issues being considered by the Connecticut General Assembly that affect all nonprofits, as well as bills that impact services for specific populations including:
• children & youth services
• services for individuals with developmental disabilities
• mental health and addiction treatment
• community justice services for the re-entry population
• arts & culture
Our team is here to make the advocacy process as simple as possible for your team. We help members meet with key policymakers, write testimony, send targeted mailings and much more. So please, don’t hesitate to contact us.
For more questions on Connecticut regulations, please contact the Office of State Ethics.