Federal Lobbying Guidelines for Stanford Faculty and Staff

Stanford University, as a tax-exempt organization, is permitted to lobby the federal government and engages in lobbying activity on a limited number of issues, mostly those affecting education, research and related activities.   

Lobbying activities of universities and other charitable organizations are regulated by overlapping federal government rules.  For example, the Internal Revenue Service requires that the University file annual reports documenting the expenses incurred in lobbying activities.  In addition, the University is registered to lobby under the federal Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995 (LDA).  The Act requires quarterly reporting of all federal lobbying activities and related expenses conducted on behalf of the University.  Faculty and staff are not permitted to engage in these activities without approval in advance by the University.  If approved, the activity must be documented and related expenses must be reported.


Stanford’s Office of Public Affairs


Questions about this topic can be answered by:

Ryan M. Adesnik, Director of Federal Government Relations (radesnik@stanford.edu)

What is federal lobbying?

Lobbying Contact: An oral, written, or electronic communication to a covered official from the legislative or executive branch regarding the formulation, modification, or adoption of federal legislation or a federal rule, Executive Order, policy, or position of the U.S. Government; or the administration or execution of a federal program or policy.

Covered Officials: Given the broad definitions, it is best to consider any executive or legislative branch employee having influence over policy or decision-making to be a covered official.  In the executive branch, covered officials are the President, Vice President, and any employee in the Executive Office of the President; those serving in an Executive Level I-V position (these usually include agency heads, assistant secretaries, deputy assistant secretaries, general counsel, and so forth); any member of the uniformed services at grade 0-7 or above; and Schedule C employees (more than 7,000 federal civil service leadership and support positions).  In the legislative branch, covered officials are House and Senate members, elected officers and employees of the House or Senate, an employee who works for a committee, leadership staff, a joint committee, or a working group of a caucus organized to provide services to Members.

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Who is authorized to lobby on behalf of the University?

  • Employees registered as federal lobbyists on behalf of the University.
  • University officials who are authorized under Administrative Guide Memo 1.5.1 to support University lobbying activities and who track their time and expenses.
  • Authorized University Officials include:  President, Provost, Deans of the Seven Schools, Vice Provost and Dean of Research, Vice Provost for Graduate Education, Vice President for Business Affairs and Chief Financial Officer, Vice President of Human Resources, Director of SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, Director of the Hoover Institution, General Counsel, and Vice President for Public Affairs.
  • Faculty who obtain pre-authorization and instructions from the Vice Provost and Dean of Research.
  • Staff who obtain pre-authorization and instructions from the Office of Public Affairs.
  • For more information please see Stanford University Administrative Guide Memo 1.5.1

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Required documentation for approved lobbying

Documentation for approved lobbying includes records of time and expenses related to preparation or planning activities, research, and other background work that is intended, at the time of its preparation, for use with lobbying contacts and coordination with the lobbying activities of others must be reported. 


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Lobbying activities do not include:

  1. Non-partisan legislative/policy analysis, study or research made available and distributed to the general public, governmental bodies, officials and employees, which does not advocate for the adoption or rejection of legislation.  Note that non-partisan analysis, study, or research may advocate a particular position or viewpoint as long as there is a sufficiently full and fair exposition of the pertinent facts to enable the individual to form an independent opinion or conclusion.

Example:  A group of faculty conducts a research project collecting information on the dangers of the use of pesticides.  They produce and publish a report that presents the advantages, disadvantages, and economic costs of current patterns of pesticide use and significantly reduced levels of pesticides.  The report concludes that the costs outweigh the benefits and recommends that legislation should be adopted to control the use of pesticides.  This does not constitute lobbying because it presents information on both sides of the issue and provides a full and fair exposition of pertinent facts.

Example:  The group of faculty referenced above invites public officials to a campus symposium to discuss the current body of scientific research on pesticide use.  This does not constitute lobbying because the intent of the symposium is not to advocate for or against specific legislation, but to examine the full scientific body of research on a specific subject.

  1. Testimony before a Congressional committee, subcommittee, or task force or material for inclusion in the public record of such a hearing conducted by such committee, subcommittee, or task force.

Example:  Being asked as an expert in your field to provide testimony on a particular issue should not be covered.  Note: Most Congressional committees request that witnesses complete a disclosure (or “Truth in Testimony”) statement.  You should state that you are appearing in your personal capacity, not on behalf of Stanford University. 

  1. Information provided in writing in response to an oral or written request by a covered official for specific information.

Example:  An executive or legislative branch official may request that you provide him/her with written information about your area of expertise.

  1. You may act in your personal capacity and lobby the federal government on any issue of importance to you personally.  In making such communications it is important to clearly distinguish between the private opinions of individual faculty or staff and the official position of the University.  Faculty or staff who wish to express their private opinions should not use University stationery or resources (e.g., telephones, fax machines, copiers, email, etc.) to do so.  In addition, faculty and staff will not be permitted to receive reimbursement for expenses from university accounts for personal lobbying activities and related travel expenses.

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Communications with regard to specific research proposals

Federal law prohibits the use of federally appropriated funds to lobby any federal official in Congress or the Executive Branch in support of awarding or extending a federal contract, grant, loan, or cooperative agreement.  General background information relating to a proposal, such as the timing relating to funding decisions, and ordinary exchanges relating to the progress or status of work may be exchanged.  Similarly, individuals may discuss the details and progress of research projects going on at the University or within a School or Department.  However, advocacy in support of a particular proposal (including pending or new proposals) is not permitted. 

Individuals may not advocate for congressional intervention regarding specific proposals under consideration for agency funding through competitive processes.

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