Purpose: To provide guidance to university employees on federal and state laws governing lobbying and political activity
State and Federal Regulations on Political Activity
While the University of Northern Iowa respects the right of its employees and students to actively engage in the political process, state and federal laws generally prohibit the use of the university and its resources to promote partisan political causes, campaigns and candidates.
Employees and students are encouraged to read and understand the boundaries of involvement of the university in the political process. If an employee’s activity is outside the scope of the employee’s employment, then the employee should speak and act as an individual citizen and must not say or imply that their views represent those of the university. An employee may use his or her university title for purposes of identification in these situations but may not imply that the university endorses or agrees with the employee’s statements or activities. The employee should clarify that he or she is speaking individually and not on behalf of, or as a representative of, the university.
Employee participation in political activities in support of candidates or ballot initiatives must take place on his or her own time and with his or her own equipment and supplies.
Specific restrictions under Iowa law include:
State employees are prohibited from participating or supporting a particular campaign during working hours. Iowa Code § 721.5.
Public money and resources may not be used to advocate for or against a candidate or ballot issue. Iowa Code § 68A.505; Iowa Administrative Code § 351-5.4(68A).
Campaign signs shall not be placed on state property. Iowa Code § 68A.406(2). This provision has been construed to allow students to place such materials in their own residence rooms. Areas designated as public forums will be available for expression of political views consistent with university rules and regulations.
Federal law requires equal and fair access to the university for all candidates. Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 as amended. Example: if a candidate or speaker for a ballot issue is invited by the university or a university department or program to speak at a class or on campus, opposing candidates and speakers must be afforded the same opportunity.
Permissible activities sponsored by the university include:
Participation in voter registration or voter education, as long as there is no advocacy for or against a particular candidate or ballot issue.
Conducting a candidate forum or series of events, which is balanced in nature and intended to educate the campus community on candidates or issues relevant to an election.
Conducting or presenting research on the political process, given that it does not represent pretext for support of a candidate or ballot measure.
Commenting on the impact of ballot measures or candidate positions on the university in a manner that reflects concern about the institution rather than in an attempt to influence the outcome for a candidate or ballot measure.
Sponsorship of a candidate appearance by the university or a university department or program, the purpose for which is a debate and discussion of ideas rather than endorsement of the candidate or his/her position(s)
State and Federal Regulations on Lobbying Activity
Federal Governmental Relations
The President through the Office of Governmental Relations shall initiate a collaborative federal agenda development process to determine the federal priorities of the University on an annual basis. Under direction from the President, the Office of Governmental Relations shall have primary responsibility for representing the University with the federal government.
Federal Lobbying Disclosure and Reporting
The University of Northern Iowa is committed to full compliance with the requirements of the federal Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995 and the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act of 2007. The law requires organizations, including individual University campuses, that employ personnel who qualify as lobbyists under the Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995 to register and report expenses associated with lobbying activities. A lobbyist is defined as one who meets all three of the following requirements during any quarterly period: (1) spends at least 20% of his or her time on lobbying activities, (2) spends more than $10,000 on lobbying activities, and (3) makes more than one lobbying contact with a covered person. Serious civil penalties (up to $200,000) exist for knowing failure to correct a defective filing after notice or failure to comply with other legal requirements. Organizations and lobbyists may also be subject to criminal penalties.
Contact by University Employees with Covered Federal Government Officials
Covered federal government officials include any member, officer, or employee of Congress or the President, Vice President, officers and employees of the Executive office of the President, and various high-level officials and uniformed officers in the executive branch outlined in the “Plum Book".
Prior approval from the UNI President or his/her designee is required before any campus employee may initiate contact with covered federal government officials on behalf of the University. The President may delegate this responsibility to the Office of Governmental Relations. The following scenarios specifically require advance approval by the President or the Office of Governmental Relations:
Appearances on behalf of the University before federal bodies, including testimony before Congressional Committees or participation in meetings with White House personnel. Note: When University employees appear before such bodies as representatives of other agencies, such as professional societies, it is requested that they notify the Office of Governmental Relations prior to the appearance.
Any request on behalf of the University to a covered federal government official, particularly requests for Congressionally-directed funding, support of grant proposals or nominations to federal advisory councils.
The delivery of materials, University publications, and periodicals to covered federal government officials.
Any verbal or written statement made on behalf of the University that concerns federal policies, legislation or regulations.
Invitations to covered federal government officials to visit campus in an official capacity. Note: The visit should be coordinated by the Office of Governmental Relations.
Responses to requests for information, reports, and statistics from covered federal government officials and their staffs, including responses to inquiries from investigative congressional committees.
Participation in press events with covered federal government officials intended to promote federal policy or funding priorities.
Any planned University event to honor a covered federal government official, including but not limited to, the naming of a building or part of a building on campus or endowed chair, conferral of an honorary degree, or hosting of a meeting, retreat, conference or other similar event in the name of the official.
After contacts or visits have been made with covered federal government officials by a person on behalf of the University, a short report on the contact should be made to the Office of Governmental Relations.
Disclosure of Federal Lobbying Activity
Employees who engage in approved federal lobbying activities shall report issues lobbied upon (including bill titles and numbers), officials contacted, time spent (including that in research and preparation by the employee and support staff), and an estimate of expenses on a quarterly basis to the Office of Governmental Relations. Consistent with federal law, even those University employees who do not qualify as lobbyists must report all lobbying activities with covered officials to the Office of Governmental Relations. For purposes of this Regulation, the phrase “lobbying activities” shall be defined in accordance with the definitions set forth in the Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995, as amended.
Lobbying activity is defined as “lobbying contacts and efforts in support of such contacts, including background work that is intended, at the time it was performed, for use in contacts, and coordination with the lobbying activities of others.” 2 U.S.C. 1602 (7).
No University of Northern Iowa administrator, faculty member, staff member or other individual retained to provide outside assistance shall engage in activities that require registration with the United States House of Representatives or Senate under the Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995 without prior review and approval by the President or his/her designee.
Personal and Professional Society Contacts
Personal and professional society contacts by University employees with elected officials or governmental agencies, whether in person or in writing, must be done in the name of the individual or the professional society. University letterhead may not be used. In each instance, the employee is obligated to make clear that the contact is not made on behalf of the University. Nothing in this Regulation shall prevent faculty or staff from expressing personal views on personal time, with personal resources.
Guidance on Federal Lobbying Activities
The activities listed below are not considered lobbying contacts under the federal law. However, any UNI faculty or staff member who is or will be involved in any of those activities on behalf of the University or because of the faculty/staff member’s UNI position, shall notify the Office of Governmental Relations.
Requests for meetings or information on the status of federal legislation, regulations, or policies, as long as the request does not include an attempt to influence a covered official regarding the matter;
Participation in an advisory committee under the Federal Advisory Committee Act;
Responses to notices in the Federal Register or other similar publications soliciting public input, if directed to the person(s) specified in the notice to receive such input;
Testimony before Congressional committees or task forces;
Specific information provided to a covered official in response to a direct and specific request made by or on behalf of the covered official;
Communications made following written agency procedures in conducting an adjudicatory proceeding within the agency;
Communications with officials of relevant agencies regarding judicial proceedings (civil or criminal) or filings or proceedings the federal government must conduct confidentially;
Petitions for agency actions which are required to be kept as public records under established agency rules;
Communications through speeches, articles, or other means disseminated in the media relating to federal legislation, regulations, or policies.
State Governmental Relations
The Board of Regents, State of Iowa directs a coordinated legislative program for all five institutions under its governance. The Board formulates an annual legislative agenda following consultation with the institution heads to which all institutions adhere. No legislative item may be advanced to the Governor or General Assembly without the approval of the Board of Regents. Each institution has a State Relations Officer assigned to it by the Board Office who is the conduit to the executive and legislative branches of the government. The State Relations Officer must be kept informed of all contacts between state legislators and institution personnel on all legislative matters or issues related to university programs and policies.
Reporting of State Lobbying Activity
All registered lobbyists are required to submit quarterly and annual reports of all expenses incurred in lobbying both the legislative and executive branches of the state government.
The State of Iowa has statutory provisions that restrict or prohibit the acceptance of gifts. These provisions are commonly referred to as the “Gift Law.” In general, the law prohibits State and University employees from accepting or receiving any gift – monetary or nonmonetary -- from a “restricted donor.” A “restricted donor” generally includes any person or entity that is doing business with the University, wants to do business with the University, or will be affected by the actions of the prospective done (State/University employee). Certain exceptions apply. The gift law is intended to be restrictive. For specific information, see Iowa Code chapter 68B, especially section 68B.21 and following.
Permissible gifts include nonmonetary items of a value of $3 or less received from any one donor during one calendar day. Iowa Code Chapter 68B.22(4).
Office of Governmental Relations
Approved by Cabinet: December 2008