Both lobbyists and public officials should be subject to clear and enforceable standards of conduct and a system for managing conflicts of interest. The onus for proper behaviour shall sit with both parties; however the public officials shall have heightened responsibilities given their role as the holders of entrusted power.

Guiding Notes

Alongside transparency, integrity is the other fundamental pillar of lobbying regulation. The integrity principles for public officials contained in these Standards are based on international standards, in particular the Council of Europe “Model Code of Conduct for Public Officials” (2001).1

The OECD’s “10 Principles for Transparency and Integrity in Lobbying” also aim at “fostering a culture of integrity” (main principle III) by requiring ethical rules for lobbyists and public officials.

The “Handbook on parliamentary ethics and conduct, a guide for parliamentarians,” by the “Global Organization of Parliamentarians Against Corruption (GOPAC)” provides further instructions on ethics regulation.2

The Group of States against Corruption (GRECO) Evaluation Reports, 4th Round, tend to include the issue of lobbying when assessing the integrity of parliamentarians.3 Integrity rules are necessary for both lobbyists and public officials, and they should complement each other.

Public Officials

  1. Codes of Conduct – all public officials shall have an applicable set of rules laying out the key standards of conduct, including for their dealings with third parties. Such rules may be institution dependent, but should include:

    1. Key behavioural principles including those of transparency, integrity, responsiveness, impartiality, fairness, accountability and serving the public interest
    2. The duty to keep a true and detailed record of their actions, including of meetings with lobbyists
    3. The duty to avoid lobbying contacts with unregistered lobbyists, and to report any violations of the lobbying rules to their superiors or relevant bodies
    4. The duty of confidentiality, subject to the public access to information regime
    5. A comprehensive mechanism for dealing with any real, potential or apparent conflicts of interest, including the incompatibilities of being a lobbyist
    6. A comprehensive guidance for dealing with gifts and hospitality, including their registration or decline
    7. A system for assets and interests disclosure by the public official, as well as by their family and business partners depending on the scope of the decision-making power of the official.

Guiding Notes

  1. These are standard principles that apply to all public officials. For example, the OECD’s “10 Principles for Transparency and Integrity in Lobbying” list inter alia the following duties of public officials: “impartiality to promote the public interest, disclose relevant private interests and avoid conflict of interest” (Principle 7).
  2. This ensures that there is transparency of the decision-making process and of the impact of lobbying efforts on the final outcome. The Peruvian law on lobbying specifically includes a record-keeping obligation, for example.1 The European Commission has likewise adopted decisions that require Directors General, Commissioners and their cabinets to keep a record (public list) of their meetings with interest representatives.
  3. In Montenegro, the law on lobbying specifically obliges public officials to report lobbying violations2. Australia is also one of the many countries in which there is a prohibition on contacts with unregistered lobbyists3. European Union Commissioners, Directors-General and their cabinets are likewise prohibited from meeting with unregistered lobbyists.
  4. The principle of confidentiality is not meant to run counter to freedom of information, but applies only in cases where there are exceptions to freedom of information that cover particularly sensitive information. Codes of conduct often make reference to post-employment confidentiality requirements. The objective is to mitigate the risk of a former public official using their insider knowledge, for example from working in a financial oversight body, when they move to the private sector to lobby for the interests of banks.4 Cooling-off periods can mitigate but not prevent such abuse.
  5. There are many national lobbying regulations that highlight the incompatibility of being a public official and a lobbyist at the same time, for example in Austria,5 Macedonia,6 or Montenegro. This is due to the fact that public officials are mandated to act in the public interest, which requires impartiality. Hence public office is incompatible with the role of a lobbyist, as they work to defend the interests of a particular sector of society.
  6. The following quote illustrates how important robust rules in particular on gifts are. The famous North-American lobbyist Jack Abramoff said in a TV interview that “very few members” of Congress do not accept some form of bribery: “I am talking about giving a gift to somebody who makes a decision on behalf of the public and at the end of the day that’s really what bribery is […]. But it’s done every day and it’s still being done.”7

    A 2014 report by the European Parliament demonstrates the seriousness of the problem: the report calls for an amendment of the Code of Conduct for lobbyists in order to prohibit “interference in the private sphere or personal life of decision-makers, e.g. by sending gifts to a decision-maker’s home address”.8

    As for executive public officials, Article 18 of the Council of Europe “Model Code of Conduct for Public Officials” prohibits public officials to “demand or accept gifts, favours, hospitality or any other benefit […] which may influence or appear to influence the impartiality with which he or she carries out his or her duties or may be or appear to be a reward relating to his or her duties. This does not include conventional hospitality or minor gifts.”

    It should be noted that for example in Peru, there is an absolute ban to accept any generosity by lobbyists.9 In Argentina, there is a direct ban on gifts directly related to the MP’s position. In Australia MPs are allowed to accept gifts, but only if they do not present a direct conflict of interest.”10

  7. Asset declarations are relevant in the context of lobbying in several ways: they can show how public officials might have second jobs incompatible with their main position (for example as lobbyists), as well as previous positions or involvements with interests in conflict with the public interest they are supposed to defend. From a financial side the declarations can also show any significant financial influence on the public official.

    International standards are the Organisation of American States (OAS) “Model law on the declaration of interests, income, assets and liabilities of persons performing public functions” (2013)11 and the “Western Balkan Recommendation on Disclosure of Finances and Interests by Public Officials” (2014).12

  1. Article 16 “Law No. 28024 regulating the management of interests in public administration” (Peru): Public officials contacted by lobbyists have to “a) submit to the Public Interest Registry Management a summary of the information and documentation they received in the course of lobbying; and b) complete and submit a form to the SUNARP [Superintendencia Nacional de los Registros Públicos].”, (unofficial translation from Spanish).

  2. Article 39 para. 2 Law on Lobbying (Montenegro): “Lobbied person shall notify the [Anti-Corruption] Agency about illegal lobbying and submit information on natural and legal entity engaged in illegal lobbying or a lobbyist or legal entity conducting lobbying activities contrary to this Law.”, (unofficial translation from Montenegrin)



  5. Section 8 Law on Lobbying (Austria): “A public functionary is prohibited from acting as a lobbyist in the field of his/her work”. However, this only concerns lobbying as a main profession (Section 4 no. 4), but not secondary jobs. (unofficial translation from German).

  6. Article 8 para. 1 Law on Lobbying (Macedonia): “Elected and appointed officials who have professional functions in the legislative, executive and local government are not allowed to lobby during their term.”;

  7. CBS, Jack Abramoff: The lobbyist's playbook, 30 May 2012, transcript,

  8. European Parliament, Report on the modification of the interinstitutional agreement on the Transparency Register (2014/2010(ACI)), at D.10,

  9. Article 17 “Law No. 28024 regulating the management of interests in public administration” (Peru): Executive public officials “are prohibited from accepting directly or indirectly any generosity by” lobbyists, (unofficial translation from Spanish).

  10. Of 2010, at page 25,

  11. Of 22 March 2013, SG/MESICIC/doc.344/12 rev. 2,


  1. Post-employment restrictions – there should be a proportionate moratoria (or ‘cooling-off periods’) of at least 2 years before former public officials can lobby their former institutions concerning their prior duties. Approval from a designated ethics agency may be required before the public official can take up such a position.

Guiding Notes

The OECD’s “10 Principles for Transparency and Integrity in Lobbying” call in this context to avoid post-public service ‘switching sides’ in specific processes and using their insider knowledge of the process to the benefit of their new, private sector, employer. It may be necessary to impose a ‘cooling-off’ period that restricts former public officials from lobbying their past organisations, should a risk of a conflict of interest arise. As for cooling-off periods, it should be noted that some countries apply longer periods of up to three or five years, such as Canada1 or Taiwan.2

  1. Section 10.11 Lobbying Act (Canada): “No individual shall, during a period of five years after the day on which the individual ceases to be a designated public office holder carry on” lobbying activities;

  2. Article 10 Lobbying Act (Taiwan): Public officials “shall not lobby […] on behalf of legal persons or organizations in three years after leaving office”,

  1. Pre-employment restrictions – prospective public officials, excluding those elected into office, but particularly those hired or seconded into advisory and regulatory roles, shall be subject to a conflicts of interest vetting process that may necessitate their recusal or supervision for certain aspects of their activities, or a disqualification from the potential position. Omission to declare details that may be relevant for identifying potential conflicts of interests should trigger disciplinary procedures.

Guiding Notes

Conflicts of interest might arise if a public official previously worked in the private sector and if they enter policy or advisory jobs in which their previous position could have an adverse impact. The OECD has recommended that “countries may consider a similar temporary cooling-off period restriction on appointing or hiring a lobbyist to fill a regulatory or an advisory post” for this reason.

Practical example: A campaigner for a child-rights NGO might find a new job in the EU institutions, specifically in the unit that takes decisions on funding applications for grants to NGOs. The campaigner should avoid taking decisions on grants relating to their previous employer, to prevent risks that a conflict of interest may arise, and to prevent the public perception that there is a risk of a conflict of interest as well.


  1. Statutory code of conduct – there should be a statutory code of conduct for lobbyists developed in close consultation with all stakeholders and interested parties.

Guiding Notes

Most lobbying regulations refer to ethical principles for lobbyists, which regulate their contact with decision-makers, but in most jurisdictions, these principles are not elevated to a statutory code of conduct. Austria and Canada are exceptions. In Canada, for example, all lobbyists are required to comply with a Lobbyists’ Code of Conduct and the Commissioner of Lobbying has the authority to administer and enforce the code if there is an alleged breach of either a principle or a rule of the Code.1

  1. Behavioural standards – the code shall lay out the core behavioural standards, particularly with regards to honesty and the avoidance of undue influence.

Guiding Notes

The obligation on lobbyists to act with honesty is an important part of most codes of conduct on lobbying. Lobbyists are obliged to disclose to public officials at first encounter that they are working for a client and to name that client. In many cases lobbyists are also prohibited from submitting false or manipulated data to the public official in order to strengthen their cause.

Lobbyists are also prohibited from encouraging public officials to exercise undue influence, for example by offering financial or immaterial advantages to public officials in exchange for a favourable decision (see the section on public officials and gifts, above).

There are a wide variety of behavioural standards in national codes of conduct for lobbyists: obligations include to refrain from disguising clients, referring to non-existent clients, or providing false information on the nature of the lobbying assignment (Australia, Lithuania); to refrain to use the logo of the lobbied public institution (France); to refrain from agreeing on success fees (Austria); or to refrain from financial contributions in exchange for opportunities to speak at events in Parliament (France).

  1. Self-regulation – supplementary measures shall be taken to encourage lobbyists to voluntarily adopt, publicise and report on additional ethical commitments, including through collective action. Such commitments shall be backed by internal control and sanction mechanisms, and be integrated within their broader corporate social responsibility (CSR) and governance strategy.

Guiding Notes

This is a reflection of the OECD’s Principle 9: “Countries should involve key actors in implementing a coherent spectrum of strategies and practices to achieve compliance.”

In Austria, for example, the lobby law encourages lobbyists to adopt their own codes of conduct: Lobbyists “have to base their lobbying on a code of conduct, and have to refer to it on their webpage.”1 For more information on self-regulation you could refer to the “Woodstock Principles for the Ethical Conduct of Lobbying”2 or the “Society of European Affairs Professionals Code of Conduct”.3

The Global Compact’s report “Towards Responsible Lobbying” provides guidance on responsible lobbying for businesses; the report includes topics such as “Mapping the People Involved in Lobbying Activities”, “Ensuring Robust Management of Lobbying Activities”, “Reporting on Influence”, as well as providing “Examples of Lobbying Codes of Conduct”.4

Practical example: The EU Office of Transparency International adopted an internal policy in 2015 whereby they have started to publish a list containing “Meetings between staff members of Transparency International EU and MEPs, Commissioners and other officials who are involved in the policy-making process.” They report “all meetings and contacts with EU officials where we have sought to influence the policy-making process.”

  1. Section 7 Law on Lobbying (Austria), (German).


  3. Of 2005 (revised),

  4. UN Global Compact, Towards Responsible Lobbying, 2005,; see also Vigeo, Transparency and Integrity in Lobbying: A New Challenge for CSR,