Community Health Centers: Legal Lobbying 101
Q. What is lobbying?
A. As a general matter, "lobbying" is an attempt to influence the passage or defeat of laws, resolutions, or similar items by Congress or a state or local legislative body, or a referendum, constitutional amendment, or similar procedure. Lobbying should not be confused with "political activities" i.e. supporting or opposing candidates for elective office.
Q. Is it okay for CHCs to lobby?
A. Yes. CHCs, like all organizations exempt from federal income tax under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, may lobby for or against legislation. In fact, lobbying on issues affecting its clients may be an important means for a CHC to accomplish its mission.
However, there are two important restrictions: 1) federal grant funds may not be used to pay for any lobbying expenses and 2) a CHC's lobbying activities cannot constitute a "substantial part" of its total activities.
Q. What kinds of activities are considered lobbying?
A. There are two types activities:
1) direct lobbying consists of communicating with--by writing or speaking to--a member or an employee of Congress or a state or local legislative body, or a government official who may participate in the formulation or amendment of legislation, in an attempt to influence the passage, amendment, or defeat of legislation (a bill, an amendment, a funding level, or the like).
2) grassroots lobbying consists of communicating with the general public for the purpose of calling upon a member of the public to contact legislators to support or oppose specific legislation.
Generally speaking, communications that do not advocate the passage or defeat of legislation or similar measures are not considered to be lobbying. For example, meeting with a congressman to provide objective and educational information about health centers, the need for primary health care services, and other general information is not considered to be lobbying. Nor is responding to requests from a member of Congress for information or data.
Michael Glomb, JD
Feldesman, Tucker, Leifer, Fidell, and Bank, LLC
2001 L Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036