AAAS Policy, Guidelines, and Procedures for Communications with Congress
- Communication with Congress is important. AAAS officers, members, organizations and staff represent valuable resources to the Congress and congressional organizations. AAAS expertise can be helpful to the congressional decision-making process.
- As a matter of policy, AAAS aims to facilitate communications among the scientific and engineering communities and Congress. As noted earlier, scientific and technical advice and information — as well as policy analyses — can be made available to the Congress in a manner that is not considered lobbying in the traditional or legal sense.
- The AAAS does not engage in political activities. No AAAS funds, equipment, supplies, communications facilities, or physical facilities may be used in any political campaign in support of or in opposition to any candidate for public office (at the federal, state, or local level).
- The AAAS does not, as a general policy, engage in direct or grass roots lobbying. To retain its tax-exempt status, AAAS must insure that “no substantial part” of its activities constitutes lobbying activities. There are two kinds of lobbying: direct and grass roots lobbying. Direct lobbying generally is any attempt to influence any legislation through communication with any member or employee of a legislative body (both Congress and state and local legislative bodies).
Grass roots lobbying generally is any attempt to influence any legislation through any attempt to affect the opinions of the general public. This generally does not include contacts with AAAS members unless they are directly encouraged to engage in direct or grass roots lobbying with respect to legislation.
- The statutes define lobbying as only those activities clearly aimed at influencing decisions on concrete legislative action or proposals. This includes the introduction, repeal, amendment or defeat of bills and acts and similar legislative items.
- Advocacy on either side of a specific legislative action or proposal is defined as lobbying. More specifically, activities aimed at influencing legislation can include meetings, telephone conversations, and correspondence.
- However, activities related to the preparation and distribution of nonpartisan analysis, study or research are not lobbying activities. Such work may even advocate a particular position but it must also contain a sufficiently full and fair treatment of the pertinent facts to enable the formation of an independent opinion.
- Further, technical advice assistance, including opinions and recommendations specifically requested, provided in response to a committee’s or subcommittee’s written request, are not lobbying activities. The requested information must also be given to every member of the requesting committee or subcommittee. A request from an individual Member of Congress not acting on behalf of a committee or subcommittee does not qualify as an exemption from lobbying. Non-routine oral requests should be followed by a written confirmation to assure the communication from AAAS is not lobbying.
- In activities related to “self-defense” of an organization, a wide range of leeway in legislative actions is permitted. Self-defense items include matters which threaten or affect the existence of AAAS, its powers and duties or its tax-exempt status.
- The Executive Officer, consulting as appropriate with other AAAS officers, will decide when and if an exception to the general AAAS prohibition against lobbying should be made in the interest of AAAS and the scientific and engineering communities — or in the public and national interest.
- Types of communication are varied in nature. They are both formal and informal, public and private. The great majority of them can be carried out in ways that do not involve lobbying expenditures. The main types of communication are: (a) oral and written testimony before a congressional committee; (b) conferences and study groups held by AAAS committees and offices; (c) correspondence and meetings with Members of Congress and staff; and (d) reporting and information seeking from the Congress.
Guidelines for Congressional Communications
- Congressional requests are important. In general, groups and individuals acting on behalf of AAAS will comment on specific legislative and budgetary issues only upon the request of some congressional committee, subcommittee, or other congressional bodies. Note that a lobbying exemption does not extend to the request of an individual Member of Congress. Further, responses should be made to all Members of the requesting unit.
- The AAAS service ethic is important. From an overall point of view, AAAS serves society at large in its role as a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit, charitable organization devoted to the advancement of science.
- This “service ethic” can provide a useful framework in establishing and evaluating interactions and communications with the Congress.
- In this service context, AAAS should not only respond to congressional requests for information, advice and analysis, but also should include congressional representatives in various AAAS activities.
- On occasion, it may be desirable and appropriate for the AAAS to bring to the attention of Congress those individuals and ideas from the scientific and engineering communities that are relevant to issues and legislation being considered by the Congress.
- Generally, the AAAS should seek to express concerns, educate about consequences, and explore options rather than advocating specific legislative actions. However, in any communication that advocates a position — other than in a requested communication — close attention must be given to the requirements for a full and fair treatment of the issue, as discussed earlier.
- Activities and communications aimed at gathering information about legislative activities are not considered lobbying.
- AAAS members should not be asked by AAAS officers, staff, committees, divisions, or other Association entities to take specific action on legislation. More directly, the AAAS does not do any grass roots lobbying (e.g., influencing AAAS members to oppose or support a bill).
- All advocacy communications from AAAS staff require pre-approval by the Executive Officer.
- In implementing these policies and guidelines, it is not intended to set up an elaborate administrative system; however, a minimum reporting structure is required.
- AAAS staff shall report to their office heads all contacts made in their capacity as AAAS staff members with Members of Congress and their staffs. Sometimes this will be after the fact. However, good judgment must be applied in the matter of prior notification—especially if the staff member is involved in a personal meeting at the Congress. Exempt from this reporting requirement are AAAS-initiated contacts seeking information from the Congress; (e.g., Science reporters working on a story).
- Reports on these congressional contacts, depending on the character and importance, may be oral or written.
- Office heads will screen these reports. Those involving routine information contacts will be retained in the office. Borderline lobbying or other potentially sensitive items will be forwarded by the Office Head to the Executive Officer for review.
- Copies of all correspondence with congressional entities, even if routine, will be submitted promptly to the Executive Officer.
Review and Approval Procedures
- Pre-approval is required for all communications that might reasonably be interpreted as expressing AAAS policy. This pre-approval may be given by the Executive Officer or, as appropriate, by the Board of Directors.
- Pre-approval is required for communications that are highly visible or that might reasonably be interpreted as lobbying. Office heads shall submit such communications in draft form to the Executive Officer for review and action, together with related documents. Subject to this requirement are the following:
- Oral and written testimony before congressional committees or task forces;
- Correspondence with congressional offices of a non-routine nature;
- Any contacts that border on lobbying; and
- Proposals for conducting congressional seminars. Such proposals should include topic, purpose, proposed panelists/speakers, tentative schedule, source of financial support and proposed cooperating organizations.
- As part of the annual AAAS planning and budgeting cycle, an annual plan for congressional activities will be prepared and maintained. Responsibility for developing, updating and monitoring the plan and associated congressional activities will reside in the Executive Office.
- The plan shall include:
- Statement of objectives including areas of expected interaction with the Congress during the year ahead;
- Projected schedule of likely hearing appearances by AAAS officers and staff;
- Forecast of congressional seminars, workshops, briefings and related meetings organized for Members of Cognress and staff;
- Desired participation by Members of Congress and staff in AAAS colloquia, Annual Meeting, Regional Meetings, AAAS Committee activities and other meetings not specifically organized for a congressional audience;
- Projected schedule and scope of the AAAS Congressional Bulletin;
- Planned level of effort for monitoring congressional activities and dissemination of related information; and
- Organizational responsibilities and budget estimates.
- Copies of other organizations’ comparable guidelines for congressional communications are on file in the office of each major AAAS organizational unit.
- Also available in each office are publications issued by Independent Sector on a variety of topics related to the Tax Reform Act of 1976 and subsequent actions by the congress and the IRS which are concerned with lobbying limitations for non-profit organizations.
- Copies of relevant statutes and specialized interpretations and commentaries are available in the Executive Office.
[Adopted by the Board of Directors, AAAS, 14 January 1989.]