Direct Lobbying and Grassroots Lobbying
Current IRS regulations identify two kinds of lobbying activities: Direct Lobbying and Grassroots
Lobbying. This terminology frequently lends itself to confusion since what we call "grassroots" and what
the IRS regulations mean by "grassroots" are two completely different animals.
Simply put, Grassroots Lobbying as the IRS defines it is really indirect lobbying, as opposed to direct
lobbying. It does not refer to lobbying that takes place, say, in Lubbock instead of in Washington; both
direct and grassroots lobbying can take place anywhere at all. Instead, it refers to activities directed at the
general public instead of legislators or members of one's organization.
Direct Lobbying is defined as "any attempt to influence any legislation through communication with any
member or employee of a legislative body, or with any government official or employee who may
participate in the formulation of the legislation."
Grassroots Lobbying is defined as "any attempt to influence any legislation through an attempt to affect
the opinions of the general public or any segment thereof."
Under these definitions, then, funds used to send delegations to lobby Congress people on an
appropriation bill would be considered direct lobbying expenses; money used for TV or radio ads urging
citizens to write their Congress people on the same bill would be grassroots lobbying.
There is one very important clarification to these definitions: if an organization sends out a mailing urging
citizens to lobby on a certain issue, this would appear to be a grassroots lobbying expense. However, if
such communications are made to bona fide members of the organization, the activity is considered to be
direct, not grassroots, lobbying.
For example: if a group sends out a legislative alert to all of its members asking them to call their Senators
and encourage them to vote "no" on a handgun control bill, that is still direct lobbying. If, on the other
hand, the group sends out exactly the same mailing to the general public, it is grassroots lobbying.
Referenda voted on by the public are special cases. In most instances, work on public policy referenda is
considered to be direct lobbying, since the public is the body enacting the legislation.
NOTE: IRS regulations are subject to change and to differing legal interpretations in relation to your
specific program. This document is intended only as a general guide; you should not rely on it as
providing a legal opinion regarding your activities.