Ohio municipalities spend billions of dollars in revenues and adopt policies and sign government contracts impacting individuals, companies, labor unions and other groups. Like their counterparts at the state and federal government, many larger Ohio municipalities require lobbyist to register with the city and comply with ethics regulations.
Columbus, Ohio—the state’s largest city by far—defines a lobbyist or “legislative agent” as an individual who engages at least five (5) percent of his or her compensated time to “actively advocate” to persuade members of government to enact legislation to benefit his or her client(s) or employer. Columbus defines “Actively advocate” to mean to “promote, advocate, or oppose the passage, modification, or defeat, or mayoral approval or veto of any legislation by direct communication but it does not include any individual not engaged by a client who has a direct interest in legislation if the person, acting under Section 3 of Article I, Ohio Constitution, assembles together with other persons to consult for their common good, instructs a public officer or employee of the state or any of its subdivisions, or petitions that public officer or employee for the redress of grievances. Furthermore, Columbus excludes from the definition of a legislative agent or lobbyist the following:
⦁ Elected official or a member of the staff of any elected official;
⦁ Reporter gathering or furnishing information;
⦁ Individual appearing before an elected official during a public meeting;
⦁ Individual advertising or making statements in any media;
⦁ Publication that caters to a specific association, charitable or non- profit organization; and
⦁ Individual providing professional services relating to legislation and are not receiving compensation to advocate for the specific legislation.
Lobbyist are required to registered with the City of Columbus and file regular reports, and Columbus currently has 91 registered lobbyists working on a range of development, government contracting and public policy issues.
The Cuyahoga County Code requires Lobbyists to register with the Inspector General within thirty days after the start of lobbying activity on behalf of his or her client. If you meet certain limited criteria, you may be exempt from the registration process. The Cuyahoga County Code defines a Lobbyist as: any individual employed or retained by a client to contact via private written or oral communication any County elected official, employee, or board member to influence the award of County contracts, the appointment or confirmation of any individual, or the formulation, modification, or adoption of any County legislation, regulation, or policy. A Lobbyist does not include any individual who spends less than five percent (5%) of his or her compensated time lobbying governmental entities on behalf a specific client nor anyone who performs who advocates with county officials without compensation, whose performance of such action consists solely of testimony provided at public meetings, or whose performance of such actions are an incidental and insignificant portion of one’s duties.
Cincinnati requires lobbying registration as well. Cincinnati’s lobbying disclosure law consists of a general requirement that people, organizations or other groups who expend funds or receive compensation to influence legislative or administrative action of the City must register with the Clerk of Council of the City. Cincinnati defines a lobbyist or legislative agent as any individual who is engaged by an employer during at least a portion of his or her time, as one of his or her main purposes, to promote, advocate, or oppose the passage, modification, defeat, or executive approval or veto of any legislation by direct communication. If the advocacy by direct communication regarding legislation is directed to any councilmember, appointee of the Council, the City Manager, the director of any department created in the Administrative Code, or the staff of any such public official and the person is attempting to influence legislation, then the person engaged in such advocacy is a legislative agent.
As a general rule, Cincinnati regulations define lobbying to involve direct contact or active advocacy at least three times for the purpose of influencing legislation during a calendar year with a city official for compensation. Cincinnati defines “actively advocate” to mean to promote, advocate, or oppose the passage, modification, defeat, or executive approval or veto of any legislation by direct communication with any member of the Council, appointee of the Council, the City Manager, the director of any department listed in the Administrative Code, or any member of the staff or employee of such public official. Actively advocate does not include the action of any person not engaged by an employer who has a direct interest in legislation if the person, acting under Section 3 of Article I, Ohio Constitution, assembles together with other persons to consult for their common good, instructs a public officer or employee who is listed in this division, or petitions that public officer or employee for the redress of grievances. Cincinnati defines legislation to mean ordinances, resolutions, amendments, nominations, and any other matter pending before the Council, and staff means any city employee whose official duties are to formulate policy and who exercises administrative or supervisory authority or who authorizes the expenditure of city funds required to file a financial disclosure statement under Article XXVI of the Administrative Code.