Government Relations Guide for Engaging Elected Officials
The Office of Government Relations and Urban Affairs is Fordham University’s designated point of contact for government officials and their staff members. We must ensure that all contact with public officials be compliant with lobbying and ethics rules and regulations at all levels of federal, state, and local government.
Because of its ongoing engagement with public officials to advance its mission, Fordham is a registered lobbying entity that must report its lobbying activity to the Internal Revenue Service (Form 990), The New York State Commission on Ethics and Lobbying in Government, and the Office of the New York City Clerk. In order for the University to remain compliant with the law, all lobbying activity and contact with government officials must be coordinated with and through the Office of Government Relations and Urban Affairs (Government Relations).
Personal Capacity vs. Fordham Representative
Obligation to Identify Personal Capacity and Refrain from Using Fordham Resources
Fordham does not discourage members of the University Community from engaging in political campaign activity or lobbying activity on their own time in a personal capacity, or on behalf of groups or organizations to which they belong. When activities are undertaken in a personal capacity, however, it is the responsibility of the University Community member involved to state expressly that the activity is conducted in a personal capacity and not in his/her/their capacity as a representative of Fordham.
Subject to limited exceptions for certain permissible student activities, Fordham resources of any kind (i.e., Fordham letterhead, email, secretarial support, printers, office supplies, meeting rooms) may not be used in connection with any political campaign activity. Fordham resources may be used in connection with lobbying activity undertaken in a personal capacity only when approved by the University.
Activities Undertaken as Fordham Representative
Prohibited Activity: Political Campaign Activities
In their capacity as representatives of Fordham, members of the University Community are strictly prohibited from:
- Endorsing or opposing candidates for public office (e.g., presidential, congressional, state, city);
- Contributing institutional funds to political campaigns, parties, or political action committees (PACs);
- Using institutional resources to host or conduct a partisan political event;
- Conducting or hosting political fundraising; and
- Publishing materials that support a particular candidacy or party.
There are limited exceptions to these rules for certain activities conducted as part of Fordham’s educational mission (e.g., student editorials on political matters appearing in student newspapers, or events hosted by student groups). Questions concerning the scope of the prohibited activity, should be referred to Government Relations.
Lobbying Laws, Rules and Regulations
Federal Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995, amended 2007
The University is required to comply with the Federal Lobbying Disclosure Act. On September 14, 2007, President Bush signed in to law the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act of 2007, which amends the Lobby Disclosure Act of 1995. The Act prohibits federal officials and their staff from accepting gifts, including any gratuity, favor, discount, entertainment, hospitality, forbearance, or other item having monetary value. There are a few exceptions, but to ensure Fordham is in compliance with federal law, Fordham employees should consult with Government Relations before offering any gift, meal, goods, or services to a federal official or his/her/their staff.
Under the guidelines of provisions known as the "Byrd Amendment" [31 U.S. C §1352 (b)], federal grantees, contractors, those with cooperative agreements with the federal government, are prohibited by law from using federal monies to lobby the Congress, federal agencies or their employees with respect to the awarding of specific contracts and grants. Researchers should consult the University’s Office of Research and/or Government Relations before contacts with Congress or federal agencies are made.
New York State Lobbying Act
Pursuant to the New York State Lobbying Act, lobbying is defined as any attempt to influence:
- The introduction of State legislation or resolutions;
- the passage or defeat of State legislation or resolutions;
- the adoption, issuance, rescission, modification or terms of an executive order issued by the
Governor, or the chief executive officer of a municipality;
- the adoption or rejection of any state or local rules and regulations;
- the outcome of a ratemaking proceeding of the State or any municipality or subdivision thereof;
- any determination by a public official or a person or entity working with a government official
- related to a governmental procurement; and
- the approval, disapproval, implementation of tribal- state compacts or other tribal agreements
Fordham employees are legally prohibited from giving “gifts” to government officials, defined as anything of more than nominal value including, but not limited to: money, service, loan, travel, lodging, meals, refreshments, entertainment and discounts.
Disclosure of Status as New York State Official
If you meet the definition of a New York State Official, please contact the Office of Government Relations and Urban Affairs. Fordham has reporting obligations relating to NY State Officials who are employed by Fordham and Government Relations will need to review whether your status is captured by its reporting requirements.
New York City Lobbying Law
Pursuant to the New York City Administrative Code, Sections 3-211-223 (Lobbying Law) and Title 51 of the Rules of the City of New York Sections 1-01-08 (Rules), lobbying is defined as any attempt to influence:
- any determination made by the city council or member thereof with respect to the introduction, passage, defeat or substance of any local legislation or resolution;
- any determination made by the mayor to support, oppose, approve or disapprove any local legislation or resolution, whether or not such local legislation or resolution has been introduced by the city council;
- any determination made by an elected city official or an officer or employee of the city with respect to the procurement of goods, services or construction, including the preparation of contract specifications or the solicitation, award or administration of a grant, loan, or agreement involving the disbursement of public monies;
- any determination made by the mayor, the city council, the city planning commission, a borough president, a borough board or a community board with respect to zoning or the use, development or improvement of real property subject to city regulation;
- any determination made by an elected city official or an officer or employee of the city with respect to the terms of the acquisition or disposition by the city of any interest in real property, with respect to a license or permit for the use of real property of or by the city, or with respect to a franchise, concession or revocable consent;
- the proposal, adoption, amendment or rejection by an agency of any rule or regulation;
- the decision to hold, timing or outcome of any ratemaking proceeding before an agency;
- the agenda or any determination of a board or commission;
- any determination regarding the calendaring or scope of any city council over-sight hearing;
- the issuance, repeal, modification or substance of a mayor executive order;
- any determination made by an elected city official or an officer or employee of the city to support or oppose any state or federal legislation, rule or regulation, including any determination made to support or oppose that is contingent on any amendment of such legislation, rule or regulation, whether or not such legislation has been formally introduced and whether or not such rule or regulation has been formally proposed; and
- the passage or defeat of any local law, ordinance, resolution, or regulation by any municipality or subdivision.
Any violation of these laws and regulations could lead to significant penalties for the University, ranging from large fines to criminal prosecution and the loss of the University’s not-for-profit status.