Practice Guidelines for Members of MGRA
An objective of the Maryland Government Relations Association is to encourage the professional development and appropriate conduct of persons working in the field of government relations. In accordance with this objective, MGRA offers the following Practice Guidelines-for its members.
The professional legislative representative or lobbyist is a spokesperson before legislative and executive bodies, a public citizen having special responsibilities for the quality of that representation. The legislative representative or lobbyist therefore accepts the fact that it is the system of representative government that makes possible the practice of lobbying and, while keeping the interest of the employer in a position of primacy, will temper the advocacy role with proper consideration for the general public interest.
Aside from the provisions of law governing the registration and reporting by lobbyists and the applicable provisions of the Ethics Code, the activities of the lobbying profession are largely self-governing. To the extent that legislative representatives and lobbyists meet the obligations of their professional calling, the occasion for further governmental regulation is obviated. However, the lobbying profession’s relative autonomy carries with it special responsibilities of self-discipline. The profession has a responsibility to assure that its activities are conducted in the public interest. Every legislative representative and lobbyist should be knowledgeable about the Practice Guidelines and should strive to assure that others in the profession are also informed about the requirements of the law as well as the Practice Guidelines. Neglect of these responsibilities compromises the independence of the profession and the public interest which its serves. The Practice Guidelines are intended to be rules of reason. They are designed to provide direction to legislative representatives and lobbyists as well as to provide a structure for conduct. The Practice Guidelines should be considered as minimum standards of acceptable conduct in the profession.
- “Employer means any person paying or agreeing to pay compensation to a Legislative Representative for services rendered.
- Client” means any person who employs the services of a Lobbyist.
- “Legislative Representative” means any person who is employed to represent an employer before the legislative or executive branch of government.
- “Lobbyist* means any person who is subject to the provisions of the Maryland Code of Ethics (State Government Article, Title 15, Subtitle 7)
- “Lobbying” means the action of any person, who in the presence of any official or employee in the legislative or executive branch of government, communicates with that official or employee for the purpose of influencing any legislative or executive action on behalf of an employer or client.
Guideline 1. Competence.
A legislative representative or lobbyist should provide competent representation on behalf of an employer or client. Competent representation requires the knowledge, skill, thoroughness and preparation reasonably necessary for the representation.
Guideline 2. Scope of Representation.
(a) A legislative representative or lobbyist should abide by the employer’s or client’s decisions concerning the objectives of the employment, subject to paragraphs (c) and (d), and, when appropriate, should consult with the employer or client as to the means by which they are to be pursued.
(b) The fact of employment of a legislative representative or lobbyist does not constitute an endorsement of the employer’s or client’s political, economic, social or moral views or activities.
(c) A legislative representative or lobbyist may limit the objectives of the representation if the employer or client consents after consultation.
(d) A legislative representative or lobbyist should not counsel an employer or client to engage or assist an employer or client in conduct that the legislative representative or lobbyist knows is criminal or fraudulent.
(e) A legislative representative or lobbyist should also comply with the laws and regulations governing lobbying as well as the standards of conduct which apply to officials and staff of the executive and legislative branches of State and local government.
Guideline 3. Diligence.
A legislative representative or lobbyist should act with reasonable diligence and promptness in representing an employer or client.
Guideline 4. Communication.
(a) A legislative representative or lobbyist should keep an employer or client reasonably informed about the status of a matter and promptly comply with reasonable requests for information.
(b) A legislative representative or lobbyist should explain a matter to the extent reasonably necessary to permit the employer or client to make informed decisions regarding the representation.
(c) A legislative representative or lobbyist should always communicate accurate, current and factual information to employers or clients, government officials, the media and professional colleagues and should not knowingly make any misrepresentation of any nature.
(d) A legislative representative or lobbyist should disclose to the public official the client whom the legislative representative or lobbyist is representing at the particular time.
Guideline 5. Fees.
(a) An independent legislative representative’s or lobbyist’s fee should be reasonable. The factors to be considered in determining the reasonableness of a fee may include the following:
- the time and labor required and the novelty and difficulty of the matters Involved;
- the likelihood that the acceptance of the particular employment will preclude other employment by the legislative representative or lobbyist;
- the fee customarily charged for similar services; and
- the time limitations imposed by the employer or client or by the circumstances;
- experience, reputation, and ability of the legislative representative or lobbyist performing the services.
(b) When the legislative representative or lobbyist has not regularly represented the employer or client, the basis or rate of the fee should be communicated to the employer or client, preferably in writing, before or within a reasonable time after commencing the representation.
(c) The legislative representative or lobbyist, pursuant to law, may not accept a fee contingent on the outcome of the employment.
Guideline 6. Confidentiality of Information.
(a) – The legislative representative or lobbyist should protect confidences, not only those of employers or clients, but also those of elected and appointed officials of government and professional colleagues.
(b) The legislative representative or lobbyist should strive to protect the confidences of a client even where the information obtained by the legislative representative or lobbyist is detrimental or beneficial to another client.
Guideline 7. Conflict of Interest.
(a) A legislative representative or lobbyist should not represent an employer or client if the representation of that employer or client will be directly adverse to another employer or client, unless:
- the legislative representative or lobbyist reasonably believes the representation Will not adversely affect the relationship with the other employer or client; and
- each employer or client consents after consultation.
(b) The consultation contemplated by paragraph (a) should include explanation of the implications of the common representation and any limitations resulting from the legislative representative’s or lobbyist’s responsibilities to another, or from the legislative representative’s or lobbyist’s own interest, as well as the advantages and risks involved.
A legislative representative or lobbyist should not:
- engage a new client which creates a conflict with an existing client and request the existing client to consent to the conflict or, in lieu of consenting to the conflict, require the existing client to hire a new legislative representative or lobbyist; or
- discharge an existing client solely because a new client has offered to compensate the legislative representative or lobbyist at a higher fee than being paid by the existing client.
(d) A legislative representative or lobbyist should not request a public official to convince a potential client to engage that particular legislative representative or lobbyist.
(e) A legislative representative or lobbyist should not solicit the business of clients of other legislative representatives or lobbyists.
Guideline 8. Termination.
Upon termination of representation, a legislative representative or lobbyist should take steps to the extent reasonably practicable to protect an employer’s or client’s interests, such as giving reasonable notice to the employer or client, allowing time for employment of another legislative representative or lobbyist, and surrendering papers and property to which the employer or client Is entitled.
Guideline 9. Advisor.
In representing an employer or client, a legislative representative or lobbyist should exercise independent judgment and render candid guidance.
Guideline 10. Anti-discrimination.
A legislative representative or lobbyist should refrain from any form of discrimination which is legally proscribed or generally recognized as such.
Guideline 11. Continuing Education.
A legislative representative or lobbyist should continually strive to upgrade the necessary skills by every means available, including continuing education and attendance at meetings and seminars with colleagues.
Approved by the Membership: May 17,1994