Lobbying by Non-Profit Clients: Navigating Federal and State Regulations

Complying With Lobbying Activity Tests, Limits, Registration and Reporting

Recording of a 110-minute CPE webinar with Q&A

Conducted on Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Recorded event now available

or call 1-800-926-7926
Course Materials

This teleconference will provide accounting advisors with a solid framework for complying with federal regulation and guidance on permissible lobbying by non-profits. The panel will also offer practical examples and discuss trends in state oversight.


Scrutiny of political activity has never been higher, and non-profit organizations (NPOs) and their advisors must stay intimately familiar with IRS regulations and administrative guidance and general rules governing permissible lobbying activities—as well as with state rules where they operate.

Advisors must also stay current with IRS "insubstantial part" and "expenditure" tests for direct lobbying of federal lawmakers, while navigating different rules for grassroots lobbying on public initiatives. Special guidelines on public charities and private foundations and gifts bear watching.

With the potential for fines for failing to register or submit a lobbying report, IRS private letter rulings, and state actions in this area, NPOs and advisors face a difficult chore in keeping up.

Listen as our panel of veteran advisors to non-profits prepares you to stay current and properly compliant in the evolving oversight of non-profits' lobbying activities.



  1. Differences between lobbying and permissible, unregulated advocacy activities
  2. Differing regs and guidance for different types of NPOs, for lobbying purposes
  3. Direct lobbying (federal treatment) and affects of the Federal Lobbying Disclosure Act
    1. Who is a lobbyist, and what is a lobbying contact
    2. “Insubstantial part” test
      1. Applicable regs and guidance
    3. “Expenditure” test
      1. Applicable regs and guidance
      2. Completing Form 5768
    4. Grassroots lobbying (federal treatment)
    5. Permissible voter education and registration activities
    6. Registration and recordkeeping issues
  4. Recent state guidance of note in this area
    1. Examples of state oversight of NPO lobbying
    2. Recent changes in lobbying laws and regs in some states
  5. Tax implications for 501(c)3s and 501(c)6s from lobbying
  6. A coordinated approach to lobbying compliance
    1. Recommended best practices


The panel will explore these and other relevant topics:

  • Generally, what constitutes regulated lobbying: Permissible advocacy before administrative agencies and on voter education vs. controlled lobbying of lawmakers or efforts to influence elections.
  • Different lobbying rules for different 501(c) organizations: What 501(c)(3)s, private charities, foundations, etc. can and can't do.
  • Direct lobbying tests: The current standards for the "insubstantial part" and "expenditure" tests, and what an NPO must do if it meets one of those tests.
  • Registration and reporting: What is involved, how often reports must be filed, what penalties can ensue for a compliance misstep.
  • Plus, examples of several states' NPO lobbying regulations.

Following the speaker presentations, you'll have an opportunity to get answers to your specific questions during the interactive Q&A.


Matthew Sanderson
Matthew Sanderson

Caplin & Drysdale

He works with corporation, political committee and candidate, and advocacy group clients on federal, state and local...  |  Read More

Charles Spies
Charles Spies

Clark Hill

He lead's the firm's National Political Law Practice and is member-in-charge of its Washington office. He works with a...  |  Read More

Tammera Diehm
Tammera Diehm

Winthrop & Weinstine

She works in the firm's Campaign Finance Practice on election law issues for clients. She helps exempt organizations...  |  Read More

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