Filing a Lobbying Complaint
Who may file a complaint?
Any individual may file a complaint concerning alleged violations of the Lobbying Disclosure Law.
How do I file a complaint?
Complaint forms are available via this website by scrolling to the bottom of this page. Paper complaint forms are also available upon request from the State Ethics Commission. The complaint should state the name, and address of the subject of the complaint, and a description of the facts which are alleged to constitute a violation of the Lobbying Disclosure Law. Complaints must be sworn before a notary public.
What constitutes a violation of the Lobbying Disclosure Law?
Please note that the Commission’s jurisdiction extends solely to alleged violations of: 65 Pa.C.S. § 13A04 Registration; 65 Pa.C.S. § 13A05 Reporting; and 65 Pa.C.S. § 13A07 Prohibited Activities.
Complaints concerning violations pertaining to 65 Pa.C.S. § 13A07(d) Conflicts of Interests for lobbyist who are also attorneys are handled by the Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania.
If you are unsure as to whether the Commission has jurisdiction over the conduct or subject in question, visit the Commission’s website; refer to the Lobbying Disclosure Law (65 Pa.C.S. § 13A01 et seq.) on this web site; or contact the State Ethics Commission.
What can I expect after a complaint is filed?
- If the matter is not within the Commission's jurisdiction or if the complaint lacks sufficient information, it will not be processed and the complainant will be notified.
- Upon receipt of a sufficient complaint, the Commission may initiate a preliminary inquiry. A preliminary inquiry must be completed within 60 days, after which it must either be terminated or opened as a full investigation.
- If after a preliminary inquiry the matter is terminated, both the complainant and subject of the inquiry will be notified.
- The subject of an investigation must be notified prior to the initiation of a full investigation of the allegations against said person.
- The complainant will be notified within 72 hours of the commencement of a full investigation, and both the complainant and subject of the investigation will be notified every 90 days thereafter of the status of the matter.
- If a full investigation has been conducted, upon the conclusion of the field investigation, the subject of the complaint will be issued a findings report containing the relevant findings of fact. Such reports must be issued within 360 days of the initiation of the full investigation. The subject of the investigation must respond to said report within 30 days after the issuance thereof.
- The subject will be afforded a full and fair opportunity to challenge the findings and allegations. Such may include evidentiary hearings and arguments of law.
- Upon the conclusion of the proceedings, the Commission will issue a final order containing findings of fact and conclusions of law. Final orders issued by the Commission may be appealed to the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania.
How long will an investigation take?
- The Commission’s Investigative Division initially conducts a preliminary inquiry to determine if there is reasonable cause to indicate that the Lobbying Disclosure Law has been violated. Preliminary inquiries must be completed with sixty (60) days.
- If there is reasonable cause to believe the Lobbying Disclosure Law has been violated, the Investigative Division will conduct a full investigation. The investigation must be completed within one hundred-eighty (180) days, however, the Investigative Division may obtain ninety (90) day extensions of the time frame to complete the investigation if needed.
- No more than two(2) ninety day extensions may be obtained.
Is there any statute of limitation for Commission investigations?
- The Commission may conduct an investigation within five (5) years after the alleged occurrence of any violation of the Lobbying Disclosure Law except that the Commission may not investigate any activity that occurred prior to January 1, 2007.
Will the complaint be confidential?
The Commission will keep information, records, and proceedings relating to any preliminary inquiries and investigations confidential (this includes the identity of the complainant.)
The Commission may disclose information or records regarding a preliminary inquiry or investigation in relation to:
- Final orders of the Commission which become public.
- Hearings conducted in public, as provided by law.
- Appeals of Commission orders.
- Seeking the advice of legal counsel.
- Consulting with a law enforcement official or agency for the purpose of initiating, participating in or responding to an investigation or prosecution by the law enforcement official or agency.
- Testifying under oath before a governmental body or a similar body of the United States of America.
- The provision of discovery materials to the subject of an investigation, as required by law.
Are there protections for a complainant or witness?
No public official or public employee shall discharge any official or employee or change his official rank, grade, or compensation, or deny him a promotion, or threaten to do so, for filing a complaint with or providing information to the Commission or testifying in any Commission proceeding. See also, 43 P.S. § 1423(Whistleblower Law).
What are the penalties for violations of the Lobbyist Disclosure Law?
- For violations of the prohibited activities restrictions pertaining to conflicts of interest and certain unlawful acts (sections 13A07 (d) and (f)), the Commission may impose an administrative penalty in an amount not to exceed $2,000 per violation.
- The Commission may also prohibit a lobbyist from lobbying for economic consideration for up to five years for violation of the prohibited activities section of the Lobbying Disclosure Law, for continued failure to register or report after notice, or for other conduct that constitutes a violation of the Lobbying Disclosure Law.
- The Commission may refer as appropriate an alleged violation of the Lobbying Disclosure Law to the Attorney General or the Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania.
- Any negligent failure to register or report as required by the Lobbying Disclosure Law may result in an administrative penalty not exceeding fifty ($50) dollars for each late day.
- Any intentional failure to register or report as required by the Lobbying Disclosure Law constitutes upon conviction a misdemeanor of the second degree.
- Any registrant who files a report under the Lobbyist Disclosure Law with knowledge that the report contains a false statement or is incomplete commits, a misdemeanor of the second degree.
- In addition to any other penalties imposed under the Lobbying Disclosure Law, a court, upon conviction, may impose a fine not to exceed $25,000 against a principal found guilty of an intentional violation of the Lobbying Disclosure Law.