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Advisory Opinion: 2012-3

Facts
An airline (“Airline”) retains a lobbying firm (“Firm”) to engage in lobbying on its behalf.  Instead of paying Firm in cash, however, Airline and Firm have agreed that Airline will pay Firm in the form of airline credits at a rate of $3,000 in credit per month for 12 months.

Issue
Whether the method of payment described above is deemed reportable “compensation” pursuant to New York City Administrative Code (“Administrative Code”) §3-211 et seq.?

Opinion
The Administrative Code provides that a statement of registration must be filed by any lobbyist who in any year expends, incurs or receives an amount in excess of $2,000 of “reportable compensation and expenses . . .  for the purposes of lobbying.”  Ad. Code §3-213(a)(1). 

The term “compensation” is defined as “any salary, fee, gift, payment, subscription, loan, advance or any other thing of value paid, owed, given or promised by the client to the lobbyist for the purpose of lobbying.”  Ad. Code §3-211(e).  As the airline credits, described above, have a monetary value of $3,000 per month and are “paid owed, given or promised” to Firm by Airline, the airline credits are considered “compensation” for the purpose of the Lobbying Law. 

In determining whether the monetary threshold will be met, thus requiring Firm to file a statement of registration, Firm must include the value of the airline credits it reasonably anticipates will be attributable to the Firm’s lobbying activity as defined in Administrative Code §3-211(c)(1), that is not otherwise excluded pursuant to Administrative Code §3-211(c)(3).  If Firm anticipates it will receive airline credits (and other compensation and expenses, if any) valued in excess of $2,000 for City lobbying in any given calendar year, Firm is required to file a statement of registration.

Pursuant to Administrative Code §3-216, any lobbyist required to file a statement of registration is also required to file periodic reports for each period (subsequent to the filing of such  statement of registration) and list “the compensation paid or owed to the lobbyist . . . for the purpose of lobbying” for that given period.  Ad. Code §3-216 et seq.  As a result, in the instance described above, Firm is to report the monetary value of the airline credits received for the purpose of lobbying within the given period on each periodic report.  Ad. Code §3-216.

Conclusion
It is the determination of the City Clerk that the use of airline credits as payment for lobbying activity covered by the City’s Lobbying Law constitutes reportable compensation and must be (1) considered when determining whether or not Firm exceeds the $2,000 reporting threshold thus requiring it to file a statement of registration; and (2) disclosed on Firm’s periodic reports to the extent that such airline credits are received in compensation for lobbying activity as defined in Administrative Code §3-211 et seq.

MICHAEL MCSWEENEY, City Clerk of the City of New York
PATRICK SYNMOIE, Counsel to the City Clerk
JAIME LYNN ECKL, Deputy Counsel to the City Clerk

 

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