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Lobbyist and Lobbying Entity Questions

On this page, you will find a list of frequently asked questions about the City's lobbying regulations for lobbyists and lobbying entities.
On this page

A list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) regarding questions for lobbyists and lobbying entities. For exact language and legal requirements, view Portland City Code and City Charter.

Am I lobbying if I share my personal opinions with City officials? 

No. Time spent by an individual representing his or her own opinion to a City official is not considered lobbying for the purposes of this program.

Who qualifies as a lobbyist?

A lobbyist is any individual who is authorized to lobby on behalf of a lobbying entity.  A lobbyist could include a member of an outside government relations firm, a volunteer working on behalf of an organization, or the director of an organization.  

Specific City working groups that have been recognized by Council and are exempt from lobbying reporting are listed here

Is my organization a "lobbying entity"?

For this program, a "lobbying entity" is any individual, business association, corporation, partnership, association, club, company, business trust, organization, government, public agency, or other group who lobbies either by employing or otherwise authorizing a lobbyist to lobby on that person's behalf.

Specific City working groups that have been recognized by Council and are exempt from lobbying reporting are listed here

What groups are exempt from registering as lobbying entities?

City Code 2.12 exempts the following from the lobbying registration and reporting requirements:

  • News media, or their employers or agents, that in the ordinary course of business directly or indirectly urge official action but that engage in no other activities in connection with the official action, OR
  • Any lobbying entity that satisfies all three of the following requirements:

Are individual lobbyists or lobbying entities required to file lobbying reports?

Individual lobbyists do not have individual reporting requirements. However, lobbying entities do have reporting requirements. Therefore, individual lobbyists who lobby City officials on behalf of a lobbying entity will need to document their lobbying activity and share it with the lobbying entity (or compliance official) so the lobbying entity can fulfill their reporting requirements. The lobbying entity will need to register and report if the lobbying activity meets or exceeds the cumulative eight-hour or $1,000 threshold.  The entity receiving the benefits of or represented by the lobbying efforts, registers and lists individual lobbyists working either internally with the entity or externally on its behalf.

In addition, individual lobbyists must declare which lobbying entity they are authorized to represent prior to offering public testimony before City officials, at the beginning of any meetings or phone calls with City officials, or in emails and other communications, such as letters, to City officials.

How does a lobbying entity calculate the cumulative eight-hour threshold?

The eight-hour threshold is cumulative and includes the sum total of all lobbying activities within the quarter by all authorized lobbyists either hired externally or working internally in the organization.

Example: Three lobbyists, working for a government relations firm are hired to lobby on behalf of client XYZ and each spend an hour in a meeting with City officials and an hour each preparing for the meeting. XYZ organization has spent six hours toward the threshold required to register and report their activities.

Within the same quarter, XYZ organization lobbies City officials through additional conference calls, meetings, and follow-up emails, totaling two hours of internal staff time. XYZ organization has now spent a total of eight cumulative hours lobbying City officials in one quarter and must register and report as follows:

  1. Register as a lobbying entity within three business days; and

  2. File a report at the end of the calendar quarter listing the following for the quarter: All lobbyists working on its behalf, lobbying communications, aggregate financial expenditures, and certain gifts provided to City officials.

What are the registration fees and any penalties?

The City does not impose any registration fee on lobbying entities. Further, the City does not impose any costs to use the City’s Online Lobbying Entity Registration & Reporting system.

A City official or lobbying entity may be subject to a civil penalty of up to $3,000 per violation if they:

  1. Violate any provision of City Code 2.12;

  2. Fail to file any report, registration, or statement required by City Code 2.12; or

  3. Fail to furnish any information required by City Code 2.12.

The City Auditor may seek civil penalties and enforcement of any provision of City Code 2.12 in Multnomah County Circuit Court or other appropriate venue.

What are the lobbying entity registration requirements?

  • Lobbying entities are required to register with the City Auditor if they spend either a cumulative total (including time spent by all authorized lobbyists) of eight hours or more lobbying during any calendar quarter or at least $1,000 or more in a calendar quarter on lobbying efforts. Such lobbying efforts include time spent preparing to lobby. 

  • The lobbying entity must register within three business days of meeting or exceeding the eight-hour or $1,000 threshold. However, lobbying entities who anticipate meeting or exceeding the thresholds are encouraged to register at the beginning of the calendar year.

  • There is no registration fee.

  • Lobbying entities must use the Auditor's Office’s free, Online Lobbying Entity Registration & Reporting System to file their registrations. A lobbying organization or individual without internet access may make arrangements to use a computer in the City Auditor's office.

  • The following information is required on the registration form:

    1. Lobbying entity name, address, e-mail, and phone number

    2. General description of trade, business, profession, or area of endeavor of lobbying entity

    3. General subjects and any specific official actions of lobbying entity

    4. Names, address(es), and contact information for all lobbyists authorized to lobby on behalf of the lobbying entity

    5. The previous employment of any lobbyists with the City of Portland, length of time employed by the City, and the affiliated office(s) or bureau(s) of the lobbyist’s previous City employment

  • Registrations expire at the end of each calendar year on December 31.

  • Lobbying entities must file an amended registration whenever any of the information disclosed on the registration form changes. 

What are the lobbying entity reporting requirements?

  • If a lobbying entity has spent a cumulative total (including the time of all authorized lobbyists) of at least eight hours or at least $1,000 lobbying during the preceding quarter, they must file a quarterly report.

  • Lobbying entities must use the Auditor's Office’s free, Online Lobbying Entity Registration & Reporting System to file their quarterly reports.  A lobbying entity without internet access may make arrangements to use a public computer in the City Auditor's office.

  • The quarterly report has three main components:

    1. Subject(s) of Interest:  List specific subject areas and official actions of interest, name of City official contacted, date of contact, and type of contact.

    2. Expenditures:  Include total of all expenditures by the lobbying entity or any authorized lobbyist for the purpose of lobbying City officials in the preceding calendar quarter.

      • The following must be included in the total:

        • Food, refreshments, travel, and entertainment;

        • Printed, postage, telephone, advertising, direct mail, and e-mail;

        • Miscellaneous items and gifts;

        • Compensation paid to lobbyists;

        • Reimbursements to lobbyists for their expenses; AND

        • Grassroots/indirect lobbying expenses.

      • The following are not required to be included in the total:

        • Personal living;

        • Travel expenses;

        • Office overhead, including salaries and wages paid for staff and administrative/clerical assistance; or

        • Maintenance expenses.

      • If the exact total amount of expenditures is not accurately known at the time the report is due, an estimate may be submitted.  The exact amount expended shall be submitted on an amended report when the information is available.

    3. City officials benefited:  Name of any City official to whom or for whose benefit, on any one occasion, the lobbying entity made an expenditure in excess of $25 for the purposes of lobbying within the preceding calendar quarter. Include also the date of expenditure, name of payee, purpose of expenditure, and amount of expenditure.

How do I know whether a communication is considered ministerial, lobbying, or both?

A communication is ministerial (and so excluded from reporting requirements for lobbyists) if it involves only scheduling or other similar administrative tasks that are entirely non-substantive. For example, communications that relate solely to the time, place, or duration of a meeting are ministerial.  ARA 15.01(E).

Communications must be exclusively ministerial, in their entirety, to be exempt from reporting requirements. If a communication includes ministerial topics and an attempt to influence official action, then it must be reported as lobbying. For example, a scheduling email that includes the lobbying entity’s position on promotion, opposition, or advocacy of official action of a City official is a lobbying communication. Only solely ministerial communications are excluded from reporting requirements.  

When in doubt, the Auditor’s Office encourages reporting.

Does scheduling a meeting with a City official count as time spent preparing to lobby?

No. Scheduling is ministerial and is not considered lobbying. The exception is when scheduling also includes communication that is an attempt to influence official action of a City official.

Should time spent scheduling a meeting be considered when calculating the number of hours spent lobbying within a calendar quarter?

No. Time spent scheduling is not considered lobbying and does not count toward the lobbying threshold for reporting unless the scheduling communication also includes an attempt to influence official action of a City official.

When are registrations & reports due for lobbying entities?

A.     Registrations: Lobbying entity registrations are due within three business days of meeting or exceeding the eight-hour or $1,000 threshold in a calendar quarter spent lobbying City officials. 

B.     Reports: Lobbying entity quarterly reports are due by 5:00pm as follows:

QuarterReporting PeriodLast Day to File
1January 1 - March 31April 15
2April 1 - June 30July 15
3July 1 - September 30October 15
4October 1 - December 31January 15

*If a filing deadline falls on a Saturday, Sunday, or other legal City holiday, the report shall be due by 5:00 pm the next business day.

How does a lobbying entity terminate its registration with the City?

 The City does not have a termination process for lobbying entities. Registration automatically expires at the end of each calendar year. If lobbying activity ceases before the end of the year, the lobbying entity does not need to submit a quarterly report, unless it meets the requirements as specified in Question 12 below.

Does a registered lobbying entity need to file reports each calendar quarter?

 No. Lobbying entities only need to file reports for a particular quarter when they meet one of the following thresholds:

  1. The lobbying entity spends at least $1,000 on lobbying activities in a quarter; or

  2. The lobbying entity spends at least eight cumulative hours lobbying in a calendar quarter.

Have additional questions? Please contact the City Elections Office at or 503-865-6503.


Lobbying Regulations

Office of the Auditor