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Lobbying Guidelines


Northwestern encourages civic and political engagement by all members of the University community and offers the following as guidance for those who wish to contact government officials.

Government Relations staff represent Northwestern University before local, state and federal government officials. The Government Relations Office is the best resource if you are interested in, or have been contacted to participate in, grassroots advocacy or direct lobbying.

Personal Activism and Grassroots Lobbying

You may be part of professional organizations that ask their members to sign petitions, write letters and attend events to communicate concerns to federal and state policymakers on a wide range of issues, including the responsible use of science in public policy, the need for international cooperation in science and technology, and the need to protect federal funding across all disciplines of science, arts, and the humanities.

Restrictions on Direct Lobbying

Faculty and staff must consult with the Government Relations Office prior to initiating direct lobbying contact with federal, state or local elected officials and must report and account for legislative and/or lobbying activities.

Federal tax law states that "no substantial part" of a tax-exempt organizations’ activities may be devoted to lobbying.  Large nonprofits like universities may lawfully expend up to $1 million per year under the law’s "expenditure" test.  This expenditure limit applies to lobbying at all levels of government and must include all lobbying activities of the University’s personnel, including its government-relations staff; its retained lobbyists; and its membership organizations.

Northwestern is also subject to the federal Lobbying Disclosure Act, which requires the University to monitor lobbying activities of all staff and faculty in order to report accurately in compliance with federal tax and lobbying laws.

The University’s full policy on lobbying and communications with government officials can be found online ( The practical implications of this policy are that:

Northwestern Lobbying Policy Documents