Office of Government Relations » Contact with Government Officials

Contact with Government Officials

Employee interaction with government officials can take many forms. This site exists to guide you through the University policies, federal and state laws, and general best practices that will help you have appropriate and effective interaction that advances the University.

A University employee’s work may involve interacting with a government official in two primary ways: lobbying or advocacy. It is important to know whether your actions are considered lobbying or advocacy, because strict laws, policies, and reporting requirements govern lobbying activity.

Am I lobbying or advocating for the University?

This is the first question to consider about interaction with a government official. It is possible to confuse lobbying with advocacy because both can have the same goal – advancing the University. The important difference between lobbying and advocacy is the capacity in which an employee is acting.

Lobbying generally is communicating with a government official in an official University capacity to influence government policy or legislation or to request government funding or support.

Advocating is typically done as a private citizen on one’s own time in support of a University legislative initiative or position on an issue. If you are a University employee, you may advocate for the University as long as you make it clear that you are expressing your personal views and not an official position of the University.

Lobbying Activity

If at any time you lobby a government official while employed by the University, you must be familiar and comply with policies and laws that govern your activity.

The Vice President for Government Relations and Advocacy is responsible for coordinating the University’s lobbying activities. Certain laws and University policies restrict University employees’ authority to lobby government officials without prior authorization. Questions about lobbying activities should be directed to Anthony Haynes at lobbyingdisclosure@tennessee.edu.

Federal Compliance

Please visit the lobbying compliance resource page to learn more about how to report federal lobbying activity. University policy generally prohibits University employees from engaging in lobbying activities without specific prior authorization by the Vice President for Government Relations and Advocacy. It is important to know that civil and criminal penalties apply to individuals and organizations that fail to accurately track and disclose contacts with federal officials.

State Compliance

A new Tennessee law prohibits higher education employees from engaging in lobbying activity without the knowledge of the campus chancellor and system president. Information on how to comply with this law will be posted as it becomes available.

Advocating for the University

If you currently are a UT Advocate or are thinking of becoming one, we appreciate your support. The University’s Advocacy program has developed a set of best practices to ensure that when you speak, your legislator listens.

Read more about making your advocacy efforts count at http://advocacy.tennessee.edu/tools/elected-official/.