Electronic Lobbyist Filing - Frequently Asked Questions


LOBBYIST means any person who, on behalf of any person other than himself, or as any part of his duties as an employee of another, undertakes to influence any legislative or administrative action, including but not limited to:

(1) a bond inducement ordinance; (2) a zoning matter; (3) a concession agreement; (4) the creation of a tax increment financing district; (5) the establishment of a Class 6(b) Cook County property tax classification; (6) the introduction, passage or other action to be taken on an ordinance, resolution, motion, order, appointment or other matter before the City Council; (7) the preparation of contract specifications; (8) the solicitation, award or administration of a contract; (9) the award or administration of a grant, loan, or other agreement involving the disbursement of public monies; or (10) any other determination made by an elected or appointed City official or employee of the City with respect to the procurement of goods, services or construction; provided, however, that a person shall not be deemed to have undertaken to influence any legislative or administrative action solely by submitting an application for a City permit or license or by responding to a City request for proposals or qualifications.

The term "lobbyist" shall include, but not be limited to, any attorney, accountant, or consultant engaged in the above-described activities; provided, however, that an attorney shall not be considered a lobbyist while representing clients in a formal adversarial hearing; and provided further that the term "lobbyist" shall not include a person who, on an unpaid basis, seeks to influence legislative or administrative action on behalf of an entity that is not engaged in a profit-seeking enterprise; further provided that an employee, officer or director of a not-for-profit entity who seeks to influence legislative or administrative action on behalf of such an entity shall not be considered a lobbyist for purposes of this chapter.

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 the introduction, sponsorship, consideration, debate, amendment, passage, defeat, approval, veto or other official action or non-action of or on any ordinance, resolution, motion, order, appointment, application or other matter pending or proposed in the City Council or any committee or subcommittee thereof.

ADMINISTRATIVE ACTION means any decision on, or any proposal, consideration, enactment or making of any rule, regulation, or other official non-ministerial action or non-action by any executive department, or by any official or employee of an executive department, or any matter that is within the official jurisdiction of the executive branch.

AGENCY means the City Council, any committee or other subdivision thereof, the Office of the Mayor, or 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 consideration or expectation of return.


On May 17, 2000, the City Council passed legislation amending the City's Governmental Ethics Ordinance. Since that time, the Board has received numerous queries from individuals and organizations asking whether or not their activities are considered lobbying. The following is representative of situations where a person is NOT lobbying. As always, 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)
  • 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.
  • 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 his 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 alderman to request an additional stop sign on her block.
  • A group of developers who, at the invitation of a department head or alderman, tours 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 (Request for Proposals). (The consultant receives a fee if the company's proposal is accepted.)
  • 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 on behalf of her mother to make an inquiry about a notice her mother received about a building violation.
  • A lawyer who calls 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 urges an alderman to do something to create more parking in the ward. The citizen is a member of a neighborhood group seeking more parking, but was not asked by the organization to act on its behalf. Constituents who meet with their alderman to oppose a halfway house in the neighborhood; the constituents are in the process of forming an informal organization for this purpose.

Supporting Information Facts