The Byrd Amendment (Section 1352, Title 31, U.S. Code) identifies what activities are considered lobbying and therefore prohibited when utilizing federal funds.
The law prohibits recipients of federal funds--whether grants, contracts, or cooperative agreements--from using those funds to lobby to obtain, extend, or modify a federal award.
The regulation is intended to prevent the use of federal funds for lobbying and to monitor the lobbying expenditures of federal funds recipients. Even though the recipient of federal funds is legally the institution to which the award is issued, individuals who are employed by the institution are specifically and individually included under the regulation as well.
Items of the law which apply to Stevens Institute of Technology faculty, research staff, and administrative staff include the following:
- You may not use federal funds to influence or attempt to influence any member of the Executive or Legislative branches of government (including any agency employee) for the purpose of securing a grant, contract, or cooperative agreement or an extension, renewal, or modification of any of these awards. Charging travel expenses to a federal award or drawing salary from a federal award while attempting to influence the award of federal funds for a specific program is defined as lobbying—and is prohibited. You may neither incur such expenditures on an award yourself nor pay to hire someone to undertake this activity on your behalf.
- There is an exception for payments for individual technical and professional consultant services to the government that are outside of your work as an employee of the Institute. Please contact the Office of Sponsored Research if you wish to learn if that exception applies to you.
- If the proposed award exceeds $100,000, the Office of Sponsored Research must certify for the Institute at the time of proposal submission that the institution will abide by the regulations in (1) above and we must, if lobbying has occurred using non-federal funds, submit a report of such activities.
- If the Institute violates the regulations, the institution is subject to fines of $10,000 to $100,000 for each violation and other remedies the federal government may deem appropriate. The penalties could include loss of the particular award and suspension or debarment as an institution from further federal funding.
At the time of proposal submission or prior to receipt of an award, the Office of Sponsored Research routinely submits a certification that the Institute has not lobbied. If you or any of your staff are aware of any facts that make this certification inaccurate, please let us know immediately.
What does this mean, practically?
No one may, while paid with federal funds or using award funds for travel expenses, urge an agency to support a specific proposal. It is acceptable to ask "when will a decision be made on my proposal?" It is not acceptable to describe why your proposal should be funded rather than some other one.
If the government asks you to provide individual technical or professional services, that is not lobbying. You might want to protect yourself by asking, "This would not be considered lobbying, would it?"
A university administrator may describe general outstanding research characteristics of the institution, or even describe the wonderful work going on in a department or school, but may not say (unless asked to report that activity to the government) "I'd like to describe the activities of Professor Y and encourage you to consider making an award for this research” if Professor Y has a proposal pending to the agency to which the administrator is talking.
The regulation identifies certain persons as "regular employees" of an institution and allows them more freedom to discuss research activities with agencies than it allows non-employee "lobbyists.” A regular employee is an individual who has been employed 130 days by the institution during the previous 12 months. Faculty and others new to the Institute should keep in mind this "130 day rule" and be careful about talking to agencies about specific research projects until they have been at the Institute for at least 130 days.
It is not the intent of the regulation to prohibit the normal interchange between a faculty member and a program officer at an agency. However, there is no clear line marking where optimistic discussion of research progress ends and discussion of a new or renewal award begins. Federal program officer have received training on this matter and should know when to cut off discussion, but the responsibility is a joint one. If you are unsure, ask.
In addition, the Department of Energy (DOE) has placed a high priority on these statutory requirements and has issued its own brochure entitled "Lobbying...What You Need to Know As A ... Contractor, Cooperative Agreement Participant, or Grantee." This information is available by following the appropriate links from the DOE. A copy of this regulation can be obtained from the Office of Sponsored Research.