Compensated officers of unions or business organizations who express their opinions on proposed or pending legislation to members of the General Assembly on behalf of such entities must register as lobbyists in accordance with The Public Officials Conduct and Lobbyist Disclosure Act of 1992, O.C.G.A. § 21-5-70, et seq.
You have asked for my unofficial opinion as to whether officers of unions or business organizations who express their opinions on proposed or pending legislation to members of the General Assembly must register as lobbyists in accordance with Article 4 of O.C.G.A. Chapter 21-5 ("The Public Officials Conduct and Lobbyist Disclosure Act of 1992") if they give their opinions "as part of their overall occupations."
O.C.G.A. § 21-5-70(6)(A) (Supp. 1992) defines the term "lobbyist" to mean, in part:
Any natural person who, for compensation, either individually or as an employee of another person undertakes to promote or oppose the passage of any [*2] legislation by the General Assembly, or any committee thereof, or the approval or veto of legislation by the Governor; . . .
Any person engaging in such lobbying activity must register with the State Ethics Commission as a lobbyist in accordance with O.C.G.A. § 21-5-71 (Supp. 1992), which registration shall indicate, among other things, the name of the person or agency that employs or authorizes the applicant to lobby on its behalf and a statement of the general business or purpose of the firm, corporation, or association that is represented by the applicant. See O.C.G.A. § 21-5-(71)(b) (Supp. 1992). It is a violation of Article 4 of O.C.G.A. Chapter 21-5 for any person to engage in lobbying practices in violation of the registration requirements. O.C.G.A. § 21-5-72(a)(4) (Supp. 1992).
A cardinal rule of statutory construction is to look to the purpose and intent of the legislature and construe the statute so as to implement that intent. Emfinger v. International Indemnity Co., 253 Ga. 185, 186 (1984). To determine the legislative intent, the statute must be considered as a whole. Williams v. Bear's Den, Inc., 214 Ga. 240, 242 (1958).
The clear purpose of [*3] O.C.G.A. § 21-5-70, et seq., is to require the registration of and disclosure reports from any person who undertakes lobbying activity on behalf of himself or another person or organization and who receives some type of payment for such activity. It is not necessary that a person be employed for compensation solely to conduct lobbying activities in order to fall within the prerequisites of the statute. As long as an individual is compensated to represent the general business or purpose of a corporation, association, or agency, and that individual contacts a member of the General Assembly for the purpose of promoting or opposing the passage of legislation on behalf of such group, then that individual must register as a lobbyist and comply with the provisions of Article 4 of O.C.G.A. Chapter 21-5. Compensated officers of unions and business organizations who undertake such activity on behalf of their entities must comply with these provisions.
I do recognize that compensated officers of unions and business organizations may come into casual contact with members of the General Assembly at social gatherings or similar events. Given these inevitable casual contacts, I do not [*4] believe that O.C.G.A. § 21-5-70(6)(A) should be read so broadly as to bar any such contacts without compliance with the Act's lobbyist registration provisions. The lobbyist registration provisions of Article 4 of O.C.G.A. Chapter 21-5 are not directed at pure social gatherings or chance meetings at which the personal views of an individual may be directed at a legislator; they are, however, directed at those planned lobbying activities by individuals who are compensated to represent the interests of a group or organization. Whether any such contacts rise to the level of "lobbying" activity so as to require registration under O.C.G.A. § 21-5-71 must be determined by making a factual inquiry on a case by case basis.
Therefore, it is my unofficial opinion that compensated officers of unions or business organizations who express their opinions on proposed or pending legislation to members of the General Assembly on behalf of such entities must register as lobbyists in accordance with The Public Officials Conduct and Lobbyist Disclosure Act of 1992, O.C.G.A. § 21-5-70 [*5] , et seq.
This 11th day of March, 1993.
MARK H. COHEN,
Senior Assistant Attorney General