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Chicago’s Lobbying Ordinance: Off to a Good Start for Nonprofits in 2020! (i.e., Much-Needed Guidance for Nonprofits with Respect to the City’s New Lobbying Ordinance)

Tax-Exempt Organization Alert Jodi P. Patt, Norah L. Jones, Jacob L. Zerkle

Chicago nonprofits had much to be thankful for in 2019, including certain federal “gifts” to the wider nonprofit sector (as described here) and another gift specifically to the Chicago nonprofit community (as described here). Just when many thought every last gift had been given, the City of Chicago’s Board of Ethics (the “Board of Ethics”) surprised us yet again.

On January 13, 2020, the Board of Ethics approved and issued an incredibly helpful advisory opinion (the “Advisory Opinion”) in response to certain concerns raised by Chicago’s nonprofit community. You may recall that the recently amended Governmental Ethics Ordinance (the “Amended Ordinance”) imposes new registration and reporting requirements on individuals who interact with the City of Chicago on behalf of nonprofit organizations and the communities they serve (click here for QB’s initial analysis). The Advisory Opinion walks through fourteen common scenarios encompassing typical nonprofit organization interactions with the City of Chicago and then indicates whether each set of facts constitutes lobbying under the Amended Ordinance. A complete copy of the Advisory Opinion is available here.

The Advisory Opinion clarifies the implementation and application of the Amended Ordinance and may be relied on as binding guidance “by any person involved in a specific transaction or activity with respect to which the opinion is rendered”. A nonprofit organization whose intended activities clearly fall within one of the permitted scenarios may rest easy regarding the application of the Amended Ordinance. Please note, however, that the existence of additional material facts and circumstances may change the outcome of any one of the hypotheticals.

We will continue to monitor these issues as the implementation date of the Amended Ordinance approaches (i.e., April 20, 2020). If your organization intends to interact with the City of Chicago in a manner that does not clearly fall within the scenarios described in the Advisory Opinion, please consult with an attorney in the Tax-Exempt Organizations Group at Quarles & Brady about how the Amended Ordinance may apply in your specific situation. For more information, please contact:

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