Among the many annual filings due for businesses, one that can be overlooked is the New Jersey annual lobbying report. This filing, which must be filed with ELEC by February 15, 2024, covers New Jersey lobbying activities that occurred during 2023.
The specific form that must be filed depends on the nature of the activities, but the general rule is that any business that spent more than $2,500 in 2023 on lobbying expenses must file a lobbying report. This includes paying in-house lobbyists (referred to as Governmental Affairs Agents under New Jersey law), retaining an outside lobbying firm, or engaging in grassroots lobbying. A brief overview of the major annual-report forms follows below.
ELEC Form L1-L – This form is used by a business entity that employs in-house lobbyists, or that retains multiple outside lobbying firms. It discloses expenditures made for the purpose of lobbying.
ELEC Form L1-A – This form is used by a lobbying firm to report its receipts and clients. Detailed descriptions of the lobbying focus (for example, the specific bill or regulation that is the subject of the lobbying activity) are reported not on the annual report, but on the quarterly reports filed by each individual lobbyist.
ELEC Form L1-G – This form is used by a business entity whose only lobbying activity is grassroots lobbying. If there were both direct and grassroots lobbying during 2023, then the business entity must file Form L1-L.
ELEC Form L-2 – This form is used by a business entity whose only lobbying activity is the retention of one outside lobbying firm. In that scenario, the full financial picture of the business entity’s lobbying can be viewed on the lobbying firm’s report, and this form essentially tells ELEC and the public that the business entity designates the lobbying firm to file on behalf of the business entity.
One common error that occurs is related to Form L-2. A business entity can sometimes believe that it doesn’t have a filing obligation, and that its outside lobbying firm will handle the filing. However, as mentioned above, even if Business ABC’s only 2023 lobbying activity is hiring Lobbying Firm XYZ, Business ABC still needs to file the one-page Form L-2.
This is also an opportune moment to ensure that all individuals who met the lobbying-registration threshold (generally, more than 20 hours in a calendar year) have actually registered, paid the annual registration fee, and have filed all quarterly reports. (Non-profits and their individuals are still generally required to register and file reports, but they are exempt from paying the annual registration fee.)
Compliance Tip: New Jersey’s statewide lobbying laws apply only to state-level activities. Lobbying done at the local level in New Jersey is not subject to ELEC’s jurisdiction, and thus not relevant for the annual lobbying disclosure due on February 15. However, businesses and lobbying firms should keep in mind that some local governments in New Jersey have enacted their own lobbying ordinances, which can include registration and reporting at the local level.
Avi D. Kelin is a Partner with Genova Burns LLC, and chairs the firm’s Corporate Political Activity Law and Autonomous Vehicle Law Practices. He regularly assists companies with developing and implementing Political Activity compliance policies and procedures.
This column is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended and should not be construed as legal advice. It is recommended that readers not rely on this column, but that professional advice be sought for individual matters.