Lobbying, PACs and Contributions: What A/E Execs Need to Know

Legislation and public policy are crucial factors in the lives of architects and engineers. So. . .

A/E professionals need to know how individuals, companies and professional organizations can ethically influence public policy and law.


A/E executives should build a culture that encourages and supports employee civic involvement, while in no way suggesting that civic participation is expected as a condition of employment.

Our spring 2018 speakers were David Oxley, Executive Director of ACEC MN and Mary-Margaret Zindren, CAE, Executive Vice President at AIA MN.

Here are some highlights. Please follow the links for more detailed information. Note that this is not a comprehensive summary of the law, and legal counsel should be consulted for specific questions.

Know Your Minnesota Law on Gifts and Political Contributions

A lobbyist or principal may not give a gift or request another to give a gift to an official. An official may not accept a gift from a lobbyist or principal.

Gifts include money, property, services, loans, preferential treatment, honoraria and a host of other things, all of which are spelled out at Minnesota Gift Law.

The gift ban applies to gifts to legislative employees, public officials, judges, and local officials.

Exceptions include gifts that have a value of less than $5.00 (yes, you may buy your legislator a fancy coffee) and, more importantly, political contributions.

A contribution is anything given to a candidate’s committee, a political committee or fund, or a party unit. It can be money or a loan, a thing or a service.

Candidates for the state legislature or for constitutional offices cannot accept contributions from lobbyists when the legislature is in session, whether they are incumbents or not.

What You Need to Know About Political Action Committees (PACs)

A PAC is an organization that pools contributions from members and donates those funds to campaign for or against: candidates, ballot initiatives or legislation.

A corporation cannot donate to a PAC. Donations are limited to individuals and certain groups. There is no maximum contribution, and the contribution is not tax deductible.

You cannot use your company’s resources to promote or support a PAC. This includes company e-mail, company meetings, or any communication that implies support of the PAC is expected of all employees.

A PAC contribution is public information.

For detailed information on Minnesota PAC Law, see MN Political Committee and Political Fund Handbook.

AIA Minnesota — Policy Approach and Priorities

AIA MN’s public policy structure is guided by AIA National Public Policies and Position Statements and informed by the AIA MN Government Affairs Committee as well as additional member groups.

AIA MN’s legislative priorities are approved by the AIA Minnesota Board of Directors and local chapter boards. On-the-ground efforts are executed by Government Affairs Committee members, additional volunteer leaders, paid lobbyists, and AIA Minnesota staff.

AIA’s top level public policy goals are:

  • Protect and advance the profession of architecture in Minnesota
  • Support policy that improves the built environment in Minnesota
  • Partner with other associations and organizations to advance policy that benefits the industry as a whole
  • Demonstrate the value of the architect’s perspective in many areas of public policy

AIA’s PAC, MAPAC builds bipartisan awareness of:

  • Issues of concern to architects
  • Situations in which the expertise of the architecture community can improve the lives of Minnesotans

MAPAC is composed of member volunteers.

During the 2018 legislative session, AIA MN’s activity focused on issues related to P3
(public-private partnerships), bonding, tax conformity/historic preservation, tax credits, proposed changes to the Minnesota residential code-making process, ADA compliance regulation, and renewable energy mandates and opportunities.

For more information on how to get involved with AIA Minnesota click here.