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New Lobbying Ordinance Takes Effect July 1, 2005, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin

June 27, 2005

A reminder that the new City of Milwaukee lobbying ordinance takes effect on Friday, July 1. In sum, the new law requires those organizations (and their paid representatives) that attempt to influence the decisions of the mayor, city council and certain city officials to register with the city clerk and publicly disclose their lobbying activities and expenditures.

Note that there is an exception in the ordinance for: "A member of the State Bar of Wisconsin, acting on behalf of a client in an attorney-client relationship, while performing a duty or service which can be performed lawfully only by an attorney licensed to practice law in the state of Wisconsin."

A brief overview of the ordinance is provided below. If you have further questions, please contact Mike Wittenwyler at or 608-284-2616. Godfrey & Kahn has been working with several employers this month on compliance with the ordinance.

Also note that the Milwaukee County Board adopted a similar ordinance last week that (assuming it is signed by County Executive Walker) will take effect on January 1, 2006. 

An individual needs to register as a "lobbyist" if:

  1. he/she attempts to influence a city official's decisions regarding an ordinance or administrative matter;
  2. he/she is compensated for his/her efforts; AND,
  3. his/her attempts to influence a single matter exceed two hours during a six month reporting period (Jan 1 - June 30 / July 1 - Dec. 1).

Registration must occur within 15 days of meeting the definition of "lobbyist" and be accompanied by a $125 fee for each lobbying "principal" represented by the lobbyist. A "principal" is the individual or organization that employs a lobbyist, contracts for the services of a lobbyist, or lobbies on behalf of his or her own organization.

"City officials" are individuals who are required to file a statement of economic interest with the City (a list of officials is available here.)

"Lobbyists" do NOT include:

  • members of the media, acting in that capacity;
  • volunteers for non-profits or other organizations in which the volunteer has no financial interest;
  • individuals communicating with the alderman that represents that individual (a right to lobby your own alder); OR
  • attorneys when performing legal work.

"Lobbying" does not include an appearance by a principal before a city board, commission or committee.

A "lobbyist" may not furnish to a city official any lodging, transportation, food/beverages or any other thing of pecuniary value.

Click here for a copy of the lobbying ordinance.

Click here for a "Lobbyist Handbook" that provides an overview of the ordinance.

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