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When I joined MultiState in 2015, I was shocked by how little information state and local governments typically require for lobbyist registration. As a professional new to the field, I thought the sign-up forms would be akin to the federal government’s top-secret clearance processes. Thankfully, I soon found out that this is not the case, but I was surprised to learn that lobbyist registration requirements vary enormously across state lines.

If a lobbyist is registered in only one state, they may mistakenly believe — as I once did — that each state requires the same personal information from its registrants. In part, they would be correct because each state requires basic facts like the lobbyist’s name, address, and phone number, as well as information about the principal. Most states also ask for an email address, though some states, like North Dakota, process all their lobbyist paperwork through postal mail and don't require an email address.

Beyond these basics, though, all bets are off. States such as Louisiana, Washington, and Illinois require photographs and will not consider your registration complete until the photograph has been uploaded. Louisiana additionally requires a birth date, as does Texas, but the majority of jurisdictions do not. Even rarer is a request for a driver's license number, which I have only encountered while preparing registrations for lobbyists who are also Illinois residents.

A controversial registration line item that MultiState encounters every year is social security numbers. We keep our lobbyists’ personal information confidential, but it can raise some eyebrows when our team requests such private information. States like Wisconsin and Tennessee, which require social security numbers for reports and a professional tax respectively, collect social security numbers to ensure lobbyists don't have any outstanding state taxes. Texas and Indiana, however, simply require it as a matter of verifying a registrant's identity.

Registrations do not ask for demographic data and rarely request anything more personal than basic contact information. With this in mind, it is imperative for lobbyists to remember that every state will be slightly different. When registering in several states, it is essential to understand the different processes and be prepared to volunteer perhaps extensive information while registering.