Q: What is the difference between a gift and an award, as given to a member of Congress?
A: Under one of the statuatory exceptions to the gift rule, you are allowed to give as a gift a “commemorative” item that has minimal artistic or intrinsic value. So, for instance, you could give a plaque that says “Association X thanks Congressman Y for his 20 years of Service.”
You could not, however, give a valuable sculpture with the same inscription. The difference is that the first item – the plaque – has no artistic or intrinsic value on its own, but that the second item – the sculpture – has value on its own merit. In addition, if you give a gift that exceeds $305 in value, it has to go on the member’s financial disclosure form.
- Presented to Member/staffer in person
- Substantially commemorative in nature: plaque or trophy, engraved with Member’s/staffer’s name
- No significant utilitarian or artistic value (framed photo, print, figurine, clock, etc.)
- Senate: Disclosed on personal financial disclosure report if valued at more than $250
The House Committee on Standards and Official Conduct also has a short booklet with a summarization of rules on their website.
Remember, the overall rule is: you may not offer anything of value to a member of Congress or staffer, unless it fits under one of the exceptions.
Today’s post is summarized from the Lobbying Compliance Handbook, now with a brand-new chapter on Campaign Finance for the Lobbyist!
Questions for Compliance Q&A? Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.