Electronic Lobbyist Filing - Frequently Asked Questions


  • LOBBYIST means any individual who, on behalf of any other person contacts or communicates directly with a City official or employee to influence any administrative action or legislative action.

Provided, however, that an individual shall not be deemed to be a lobbyist solely: (1) by submitting an application for, or corresponding solely as to the status of, a City registration, certificate, permit, or license; or (2) by responding to a City request for proposals or qualifications; or (3) by seeking municipal services generally available to residents of the City, including, but not limited to, seeking establishment or modification of water, sewer, or garbage service, seeking review of a water or sewer bill believed to be in error, seeking parkway tree trimming services, seeking to have a pothole filled, seeking graffiti removal services, or seeking a temporary street closure in connection with a neighborhood block party. It shall not constitute lobbying as defined here for an individual who is paid on a contingent or commission basis for the good faith sale of goods or services to contact a City official or employee regarding the purchase by the City of such goods or services, provided that such individual is contacting only those City official or employees who have responsibility for making purchasing decisions regarding such goods or services in the normal course of business.

The term "lobbyist" shall include, but is not limited to, any attorney, accountant, or consultant engaged in lobbying; provided, however, that an attorney shall not be considered a lobbyist while representing clients in a formal adversarial hearing. An individual who seeks to influence administrative action or legislative action on behalf of a not-for-profit entity shall be deemed a lobbyist only if: (1) such individual: (A) is paid or otherwise compensated for those efforts; or (B) undertakes those efforts as a matter of professional engagement, regardless of pay or other compensation; and (2) such not-for-profit entity has both an operating budget and net assets or fund balances of five million dollars or more.

The term “lobbyist” shall not include: (1) any employee or official of another government unit who engages in lobbying on behalf of that government unit; or (2) an individual who: (A) attends a meeting with an employee or official simply to provide technical information or address technical questions; (B) attends a meeting to provide clerical or administrative assistance (including audio-visual, translation, interpretation and or sign language assistance); (C) attends a meeting to observe for educational purposes; or (D) plays no role in the strategy, planning, messaging, or other substantive aspect of the overall lobbying effort.

  • PERSON means any individual, entity, corporation, partnership, firm, association, union, trust, estate, as well as any parent or subsidiary of any of the foregoing, whether or not operated for profit.
  • LEGISLATIVE ACTION means any engagement with the ability to influence an outcome by a member of the City Council or a City Council employee on any legislation.
  • LEGISLATION means matter pending in, or proposed for introduction into, or otherwise eligible for consideration or enactment by in the City Council or a committee or other subdivision thereof, including but not limited to ordinances, resolutions, orders, appointments, and claims.
  • ADMINISTRATIVE ACTION means any engagement with the ability to influence an outcome, other than through the legislative process, by any agency or City official or employee on: (1) a rule; (2) a rate or fee; (3) a bond inducement matter; (4) a zoning matter; (5) a concession or franchise agreement; (6) the creation of a tax increment financing district; (7) the expression of support for a favorable Cook County property tax classification; (8) the acquisition, lease, license, or disposition by the City of any interest in real, personal, or intellectual property; (9) the procurement of goods, services, or construction, including the preparation or modification of contract specifications, or the solicitation or award of a contract; (10) the solicitation or award of a grant, loan, or agreement involving the disbursement of public monies; (11) the expression of support for, or opposition to, the enactment of any local, State or federal legislation, rule, or regulation; or (12) the interpretation of any local, State, or federal law, rule, or regulation.
  • AGENCY means the City Council, any committee or other subdivision thereof, any City department or other administrative unit, commission, board, or other division of the government of the City.
  • COMPENSATION means money, thing of value or other pecuniary benefit received or to be received in return for, or as reimbursement for, services rendered or to be rendered.
  • EXPENDITURE means a payment, distribution, loan, advance, deposit, or gift of money or anything of value.
  • PROFESSIONAL SERVICES means services in any occupation requiring advanced or specialized education and training, including without limitation law, accounting, insurance, real estate, engineering, medicine, architecture, dentistry, banking, finance, public relations, education or consulting.
  • GIFT means any thing of value given without fair-market consideration.
  • GRASSROOTS LOBBYING COMMUNICATION means correspondence to members of the public that solicits or encourages communication to a City official, employee, or agency for the purpose of influencing an administrative or legislative action.
  • GRASSROOTS LOBBYING EVENT means any organized activity sponsored by a not-for-profit entity that is intended to influence an administrative action or legislative action of a City employee, official, or agency by inviting participants to a location where City employees or officials are accessible.
  • NET ASSETS OR FUND BALANCES means the total amount reported on United States Department of Treasury Internal Revenue Service Form 990 for the line “Net assets or fund balances.”
  • OPERATING BUDGET means the total amount reported on United States Department of Treasury Internal Revenue Service Form 990 for the line “Total expenses.”
  • SELF-DEFENSE COMMUNICATION means contact or communication by, or on behalf of, a not-for profit entity with a City official or employee regarding administrative action or legislative action that potentially harms, diminishes, or eliminates: (1) the existence of the entity; (2) the powers and duties of the entity; or (3) the tax-exempt status of the entity or tax deductibility of contributions made to the entity.
  • TEMPORARY YOUTH EMPLOYMENT PROGRAM means any summer or other temporary youth employment program through which persons aged 24 or younger are employed by, or engaged in employment coordinated by, a not-for-profit entity or governmental entity.
  • TRANSITIONAL EMPLOYMENT PROGRAM means any temporary employment program through which persons with unsuccessful employment histories or members of statistically hard-to-employ populations, such as formerly homeless persons, the long-term unemployed, and formerly incarcerated persons, are provided temporary paid employment and case-managed services under a program administered by a not-for-profit entity or governmental entity, with the goal of transitioning program participants into non-temporary employment.


In December 2023, the City Council passed legislation amending the City's Governmental Ethics Ordinance. The Board receives many questions from individuals asking whether their activities are considered lobbying.

The following represent situations where a person is NOT lobbying. This summary is only an overview. For authoritative guidance on specific questions, consultation with the Board of Ethics is recommended.

  • A restaurant owner who applies to the Department of Business Affairs and Licensing for food and liquor licenses.
  • An accountant who responds to a Department of Revenue request to produce his client's business records for purposes of a tax audit.
  • A supplier of goods who responds to an RFP (a Request for Proposals), and meets with City representatives pursuant to the pre-set RFP process.
  • An attorney who appears before the Department of Administrative Hearings on behalf of a client to contest a notice of violation.
  • An officer of a not-for-profit corporation who meets with a representative of a City department to learn how to apply for a City grant, or to ask about the status of grant application.
  • An individual who calls the Department of Zoning to inquire whether a particular business activity is authorized at a specific location.
  • A property owner who testifies before the City Council Committee on Zoning against a proposed building project in the neighborhood.
  • A lawyer, architect or other representative of a building developer who testifies before the Chicago Plan Commission in support of a proposed development, and who is identified as testifying on behalf of the developer.
  • A constituent who calls her alderperson to request an additional stop sign on her block.
  • A group of developers who, at the invitation of a department head or alderperson, tour a neighborhood.
  • An engineering consulting firm that seeks from City employees a status report on a client's project or license application.
  • An attorney who files a notice of appearance in a case in which the City is a codefendant.
  • An attorney representing the City's adversary in litigation who comes to the Law Department to try to work out a compromise and reach a settlement.
  • An attorney who represents a client before the Zoning Board of Appeals.
  • A consultant hired by a manufacturer who assists the company in responding to an RFP.
  • A property owner who, on her own behalf, calls the Department of Planning and Development to urge the creation of a TIF (Tax Increment Financing district) in her area.
  • A citizen who calls the Department of Buildings on behalf of her mother to make an inquiry about a notice her mother received about a building violation.
  • A lawyer who calls the Department of Public Health on behalf of a client to seek information about a notice the client received about a food preparation violation.
  • A lawyer who files a client's application for a liquor license and asks office staff some questions about the procedures and timing.
  • A citizen who, on behalf of a neighborhood group, speaks to a meeting of the Community Development Commission, and urges that it adopt a particular plan for the neighborhood. The citizen states her name and identifies the neighborhood group she represents.
  • A citizen who emails an alderperson to do something to create more parking in the ward.
  • Constituents who meet with their alderperson to oppose a halfway house in the neighborhood; the constituents are in the process of forming an informal organization for this purpose.
  • A citizen seeking establishment or modification of water, sewer or garbage services.
  • A commission-paid salesperson who sells computer software and who contacts a deputy commissioner who has the responsibility for deciding whether to purchase that software.
  • A Cook County commissioner who on behalf of the County contacts an alderperson in order to urge that a proposed City ordinance be passed.
  • A participant in a team meeting with an alderperson to urge passage of a City ordinance, but whose sole reason to attend is to provide technical information or change the slides in a PowerPoint deck.
  • A homeowner who attends and aids in a City condominium ordinance drafting meeting at the City’s request.
  • A constituent who, at an alderperson’s request, participates in that ward’s zoning task force, provided the citizen does not request any aldermanic action on behalf of another person.
  • An employee of a not-for-profit organization who provides nonpartisan analysis, study or research to an alderperson regarding a proposed ordinance.
  • An employee of a not-for-profit organization who canvasses citizens to ask them to communicate with their alderpersons to urge the passage of certain legislation.
  • An employee of a not-for-profit organization who urges an alderperson not to vote for an ordinance because its passage would likely diminish the organization’s effectiveness.

Supporting Information Facts