Frequently Asked Questions

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FAQs for Lobbyists and Lobbying Principals

Registration and Licensing

No. Current Wisconsin law does not require training for lobbyists or lobbying principals. The Wisconsin Ethics Commission does typically offer a number of optional training sessions throughout a legislative session. Website users are notified of upcoming trainings via email.

“Principal” means a business or organization which employs and pays a lobbyist.

The requirements about who must have a lobbying license are fairly detailed. In short, a lobbying license is only required if you attempt to influence state legislation or an administrative rule on behalf of a business or organization that pays you, and if you communicate with a state official or legislative employee about such matters on 5 or more days within a 6-month reporting period.

For additional details, consult the When Must an Individual Obtain a License to Lobby guide published by the Ethics Commission.

Individuals who hold a lobbying license in Wisconsin must not be delinquent in taxes, unemployment insurance contributions, or child support. (Wis. Stats. 13.63[1][b]) Every applicant’s Social Security number is run through Department of Revenue, Department of Workforce Development, and Department of Children & Families databases to check for this possibility. The Wisconsin Ethics Commission does not store applicant Social Security numbers.

Licenses and registrations are good for an entire legislative session, which begins on January 1 of an odd-numbered year and expires on December 31 of every even-numbered year.

The following activities do not constitute lobbying under Wisconsin law:

  • Attempting to obtain a government contract
  • Attempting to obtain a grant
  • Communicating with your personal state Assembly representative or Senator
  • Communicating with the Governor regarding executive appointments

Organizations which intend to spend less than $500 in lobbying-related expenditures in a calendar year may register as limited lobbying principals. This $500 limit includes portions of salary attributable to lobbying. The fee to register as a limited lobbying principal is $20. In the event that a limited lobbying principal’s lobbying expenditures exceed $500 in a calendar year, the organization is required to notify the Wisconsin Ethics Commission and pay the difference between the two registrations ($365) within 10 days of exceeding the threshold.

An individual who represents only one principal obtains a single lobbyist license. An individual who represents more than one principal obtains a multiple lobbyist license. someotherword

First, log in and go to the Dashboard.  In the Lobbyist Licenses block, click the "edit" pencil to the left of the lobbyist's name.  The Lobbyist License Screen will appear, and you will click "Amend Lobbying License." Scroll down to the License Type section and click the radio button next to “I need a license to lobby on behalf of two or more organizations (cost $400)”. Click “Save and Continue”. Verify the information is correct and click “Certify”.

In the next screen, there will be a button on the next screen that says “Pay Fees”; click on that. You will return to the Dashboard.  Under the "Fees Cart" section, you should see a charge of $150 for the amendment of single to multiple license (the difference between the costs of the two license types). Check the box next to the fee and click “Checkout”. At the next screen, choose whether you want to pay online or pay with cash or check. if paying with cash or a paper check, please print out the generated invoice and remit $150, along with the invoice, to the Wisconsin Ethics Commission at P.O. Box 7125, Madison WI, 53707.

Fees

We are now able to accept credit card payments in addition to direct payments from a bank account and routing number. Simply pick "E-Pay Credit Card" or "E-Pay ACH" when going through payment options. You may also print and mail the invoice along with a check made payable to the Wisconsin Ethics Commission. Our mailing address is P.O. Box 7125, Madison WI, 53707.

Yes. Cash payments can be made in person at the Wisconsin Ethics Commission office, 101 E Wilson St., Ste. 127, Madison WI, 53703.

Lobbying fees are:

·       Single lobbyist license - $250

·       Multiple lobbyist license - $400

·       Authorization to lobby - $135

·       Principal registration - $385

·       Limited principal registration - $20

·       (optional) FOCUS subscription - $100

Remember, every lobbyist must be licensed and authorized.

Website Help

Please contact Ethics staff for assistance by phone at 608-266-8123. DO NOT CREATE A NEW ACCOUNT.

Enter your username in the “Log On” page and click “Forgot Password”. You will receive an email with a complex, temporary password. Copy that password and paste it into the password field on the “Log On” page. DO NOT CREATE A NEW ACCOUNT.

Please contact Ethics staff for assistance by phone at 608-266-8123. DO NOT CREATE A NEW ACCOUNT.

This error rarely means that the website is actually down. If you receive this or any other error, please contact Ethics staff at 608-266-8123 or lobbying@wi.gov.
Reporting Requirements

After you have logged in, go to the Dashboard.  In the Lobbyist Time Reporting block, you have two choices. “Enter Time” will allow you to enter hours for any lobbyist you have permissions for, but only for a single day. You can also click "Time Reports" to select a time period, lobbyist, and principal, and enter up to 5 days in one screen.  

Yes, your assistant should create her/his own user name in the WILobbying site. Then you can give them permissions to access your lobbying account by amending your lobbyist license. You can give s/he permissions to do one, two or all of the following: pay your fees, report your time, and amend your license.

Registered principals must report to the Wisconsin Ethics Commission each bill, budget bill subject, proposed rule, and topic on which the organization makes a lobbying communication. (Wis. Stat. §13.67[1]) The principal, through an authorized individual, must report the bill, budget bill subject, proposed rule, or topic to the Commission within 15 days of the first lobbying communication. This requirement includes reporting of prospective or suggested legislation that has been discussed with a state public official; in other words, the support of or opposition to legislation that has not yet been created. Lobbying on the budget bill must be reported by subject and not under the bill number.

Registered principals may be required to report on the same issue more than once. For example, Principal A is interested in creating a sales tax exemption for the sale of pet food. This would be reported as a topic. Later, the sales tax exemption gets introduced as a legislative proposal. Now Principal A must report an interest in that legislative proposal. And if the sales tax exemption eventually became part of the budget, Principal A would have to report an interest in the specific budget bill subject the issue is under. However, making multiple communications on the same issue in the same category does not necessitate multiple reports.

Yes. To submit a Lobbyist Time Report when you have not lobbied in the last six months:

  1. After logging in, go to the Dashboard. In the Lobbyist Time Reporting block, click “Time Reports”.
  2. Select the Reporting Period, Lobbyist, and Principal. The Time Entries section should display "No Entries Found." Click the "File 6-Month Time Report" button.
  3. Verify that the Certification and Electronic Signature statement is correct and click "Certify."

The Statement of Lobbying Activities and Expenditures (SLAE) is the report principals are required to file every 6 months, regardless of activity level. In other words, the report is required of all registered principals, whether they have engaged in lobbying during the reporting period or not. The report is due every January 31, for July – December of the prior year, and July 31, for January-June. Detailed instructions on how to file the SLAE can be found here.

FAQs for the Public

No. User Accounts are necessary only for those who must file lobbying reports with the Wisconsin Ethics Commission. All reported lobbying information is available to the public.

No. Current Wisconsin law does not require training for lobbyists or lobbying principals. The Wisconsin Ethics Commission does typically offer a number of optional training sessions throughout a legislative session. Website users are notified of upcoming trainings via email.

"Principal" means an organization which employs and pays a lobbyist.

Try searching for lobbyists by their last name. If you are unsure of the spelling, you can scroll down the list until you get to the letter the last name begins with. If you still do not find it, the person you are searching for is not a licensed lobbyist for the legislative session in which you are searching.

We recommend searching for principals by the least common word in their name. For example, if looking for the Wisconsin Realtors Association, type in “realtors” and click Search. You can also scroll down the list until you get to the letter with which the principal’s name begins. If you still do not find it, the organization you are searching for has not registered with the Wisconsin Ethics Commission for the legislative session in which you are searching.

The requirements about who must have a lobbying license are fairly detailed. In short, a lobbying license is only required if you attempt to influence state legislation or an administrative rule on behalf of a business or organization that pays you, and if you communicate with a state official or legislative employee about such matters on 5 or more days within a 6-month reporting period.

For additional details, consult the When Must an Individual Obtain a License to Lobby guide published by the Ethics Commission.

Lobbyists and principals submit three kinds of reports.

  • Principals must file a report within 15 days of lobbying on a specific legislative proposal, budget bill subject, administrative rule, or topic. These interests appear on the website under each principal in the section labeled "Lobbying Interests."
  • Lobbyists are required to submit a Lobbyist Time Report every six months for each principal that they represent. This report contains only the amount of time that was spent by the lobbyist on lobbying in that six month period. The report must be filed even if the lobbyist has zero hours to report.
  • Principals are required to complete a Statement of Lobbying Activities and Expenditures (SLAE) every six months. The SLAE contains the Lobbyist Time Report for each lobbyist the principal has authorized, and the amount of money the principal spent on lobbying. Registered principals are required to file the SLAE even if no activity has occurred.

  • Attempting to be awarded a government contract
  • Communicating with your personal state Assembly representative or Senator
  • Communicating with the Governor regarding executive appointments
  • Contacting legislators on your own or as an unpaid volunteer for a group or business

Lobbyists may only give contributions to officials and candidates for state-level partisan offices during a specific “window” of time.  They may only make personal campaign contributions of their own funds during election periods - between the date when candidates can begin to circulate nomination papers (April 15 for the general election) and the date of that election.

Contributions to legislators and candidates for legislative office have additional restrictions. The state legislative election "window" does not open until after the Legislature concludes its final scheduled floor period (if the final floor period is scheduled for a date after April 15). For example, the 2020 Fall election had a "window" of May 15th to August 30th, and closed again on August 31st when a special session began.  Since the special session did not end until after the November election, the “window” for the Fall Election only lasted from May 15, 2020, to August 30, 2020.

However, lobbyists may convey or deliver contributions from their clients to candidate committees at any time.

$0.00. Wisconsin has one of the strictest lobbying laws in the country, and legislators may not even accept a cup of coffee from a lobbyist or anyone else. Lobbyists may, however, pay for a legislator’s meal if he or she is speaking at an event.

Legislative sessions begin on January 1 of every odd-numbered year and conclude on December 31 of every even-numbered year.

A number of formal opinions issued by the Ethics Commission on lobbying and ethics can be found in the Resource Finder. Filter the Document Type to show “Opinion” with a Resource Subject of “Lobbying” or “Ethics.”

Document Library

If you are unsure of how to create an account, or if you cannot remember your password, please see page 3 of the Eye on Lobbying User's Guide.

If you want to register a principal for the first time, or are a lobbyist that has never had a lobbyist license, see  pages 6 and 11 of the Eye on Lobbying User's Guide. 

If you believe your principal will not spend more than $500 in a calendar year, you may qualify for reduced registration and licensing fees--by being a Limited Lobbying Principal. Please call the Ethics Commission before claiming limited lobbying on your registration.

Once you have submitted the proper forms, the corresponding fees will show up in the "Pay Fees Tab" on the left hand side of the screen. For further assistance, please view page 18 of the Eye on Lobbying User's Guide.

Please see page 20 of the Eye on Lobbying User's Guide.

Please see page 28 of the Eye on Lobbying User's Guide.

Please see page 27 of the Eye on Lobbying User's Guide.

Please see page 37 of the Eye on Lobbying User's Guide or you can see the quick tip sheet: FOCUS

If you are new to lobbying in Wisconsin, or would like a refresher on reporting requirements, take a look the Lobbying Law Basics.