PROFESSIONAL CODE OF ETHICS
This professional Code of Conduct is recognized by the profession, clients and employers as the standard by which the profession should adhere and conduct itself.
This Code of Ethics was initially developed and later revised for the American League of Lobbyists (ALL) under the direction of Tom Susman, chair of ALL’s Ethics Committee. It became the Ethics Code for the Association of Government Relations Professionals (AGRP) when ALL adopted its new name. AGRP has discontinued its operations. NILE will soon revisit and, as appropriate, update and revise this Code consistent with NILE’s commitment to the highest ethical standards for lobbyists. In the meantime, members of NILE should consider themselves governed by this Code of Ethics.
“An important document which recognizes the critical need for ethical behavior in public affairs.”
— Pat Roberts, Former Chairman
Senate Select Committee on Ethics
ARTICLE I – HONESTY & INTEGRITY
A lobbyist should conduct lobbying activities with honesty and integrity.
1.1. A lobbyist should be truthful in communicating with public officials and with other interested persons and should seek to provide factually correct, current and accurate information.
1.2. If a lobbyist determines that the lobbyist has provided a public official or other interested person with factually inaccurate information of a significant, relevant, and material nature, the lobbyist should promptly provide the factually accurate information to the interested person.
1.3. If a material change in factual information that the lobbyist provided previously to a public official causes the information to become inaccurate and the lobbyist knows the public official may still be relying upon the information, the lobbyist should provide accurate and updated information to the public official.
ARTICLE II – COMPLIANCE WITH APPLICABLE LAWS, REGULATIONS & RULES
A lobbyist should comply fully with all laws, regulations and rules applicable to the lobbyist.
2.1. A lobbyist should be familiar with laws, regulations and rules applicable to the lobbying profession and should not engage in any violation of such laws, regulations and rules.
2.2. A lobbyist should comply with all campaign finance laws, regulations and rules. Additionally, a lobbyist should remain informed on updates in campaign finance laws that affect their rights and responsibilities, as a lobbyist and a citizen, under the First Amendment right to participate in the political process.
2.3. A lobbyist should not cause a public official to violate any law, regulation or rule applicable to such public official.
ARTICLE III – PROFESSIONALISM
A lobbyist should conduct lobbying activities in a fair and professional manner.
3.1. A lobbyist should have a basic understanding of the legislative and governmental process and such specialized knowledge as is necessary to represent clients or an employer in a competent, professional manner.
3.2. A lobbyist should maintain the lobbyist’s understanding of governmental processes and specialized knowledge through appropriate methods such as continuing study, seminars and similar sessions in order to represent clients or an employer in a competent, professional manner.
3.3. A lobbyist should treat others — both allies and adversaries — with respect and civility.
3.4. A lobbyist should participate in continuing education and training programs, including those addressing compliance with laws, rules, and ethical standards applicable to the profession, on an annual basis.
ARTICLE IV – CONFLICTS OF INTEREST
A lobbyist should not continue or undertake representations that may create conflicts of interest without the informed consent of the client or potential client involved.
4.1. A lobbyist should avoid advocating a position on an issue if the lobbyist is also representing another client on the same issue with a conflicting position.
4.2. If a lobbyist’s work for one client on an issue may have a significant adverse impact on another client’s interests, the lobbyist should inform and obtain consent from the other client whose interests may be affected of this fact even if the lobbyist is not representing the other client on the same issue.
4.3. A lobbyist should disclose all known conflicts to the client or prospective client and discuss and resolve the conflict issues promptly.
4.4. A lobbyist should inform the client if any other person is receiving a direct or indirect referral or consulting fee from the lobbyist due to or in connection with the client’s work and the amount of such fee or payment.
ARTICLE V – DUE DILIGENCE & BEST EFFORTS
A lobbyist should vigorously and diligently advance and advocate the client’s or employer’s interests.
5.1. A lobbyist should devote time, attention, and resources to the client’s or employer’s interests that are commensurate with client expectations, agreements, and compensation.
5.2. A lobbyist should exercise loyalty to the client’s or employer’s interests.
5.3. A lobbyist should keep the client or employer informed regarding the work that the lobbyist is undertaking and, to the extent possible, should give the client the opportunity to choose between various options and strategies.
ARTICLE VI – COMPENSATION AND ENGAGEMENT TERMS
6.1. A lobbyist who is retained by a client should have a written agreement with the client regarding the terms and conditions for the lobbyist’s services, including the amount of and basis for compensation. The agreement should include the subject of expenses, and the lobbyists should charge only those expenditures made on behalf of the client and in furtherance of the objective pursued on the client’s behalf.
6.2. The fees charged by a lobbyist should be reasonable, taking into account the facts and circumstances of the engagement.
6.3. A lobbyist shall disclose to other clients and, if requested, to government officials the existence of any agreement for the receipt of contingent fees or bonuses for obtaining or preventing the enactment of legislation.
6.4. Upon termination of representation, a lobbyist should take steps to the extent reasonably practicable to protect an employer’s or client’s interests, such as giving reasonable notice to the employer or client, allowing time for employment of another lobbyist, and surrendering papers and property to which the employer or client is entitled.
ARTICLE VII – CONFIDENTIALITY
A lobbyist should maintain appropriate confidentiality of client or employer information.
7.1. A lobbyist should not disclose confidential information without the client’s or employer’s informed consent.
7.2. A lobbyist should not use confidential client information against the interests of a client or employer or for any purpose not contemplated by the engagement or terms of employment.
ARTICLE VIII – PUBLIC EDUCATION
8.1. A lobbyist should seek to ensure better public understanding and appreciation of the nature, legitimacy and necessity of lobbying in our democratic governmental process. This includes the First Amendment right to “petition the government for redress of grievances.”
8.2. A lobbyist is encouraged to devote a not insubstantial amount of time each year to providing lobbying or related services to persons or organizations that are pursuing objectives that advance the public good, but who do not have the resources to compensate lobbyists to represent them in that endeavor.
ARTICLE IX – DUTY TO GOVERNMENTAL INSTITUTIONS
In addition to fulfilling duties and responsibilities to the client or employer, a lobbyist should exhibit proper respect for the governmental institutions before which the lobbyist represents and advocates clients’ interests.
9.1. A lobbyist should not act in any manner that will undermine public confidence and trust in the democratic governmental process.
9.2. A lobbyist should not act in a manner that shows disrespect for government institutions.