Posts Tagged ‘HLOGA gift rules’

Tuesday Ethics Tip: The Commemorative Hat Edition

Tuesday, April 19th, 2011 by Vbhotla

It’s a great time of year: the NBA and NHL are both officially in playoff season!  And while Washington basketball aficionados may have little to cheer for (let’s be honest, Wizards fans are used to it), Caps fans can revel in the fact that despite the game one loss, the 2nd Seed Capitals may have a legitimate chance at the Stanley Cup (assuming they can get it together and make it out of the first round).

Previous Lobby Blog posts have portrayed certain members of Congress as big sports fans.  But if you’re hoping to cozy up to hockey fans Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.),  Reps. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.), Mike Quigley (D-Ill.)—who is often touted the biggest hockey fan in Congress, Brian Higgins (D-N.Y.), Larry Bucshon (R-Ind.), Pat Meehan (D-Penn.), or basketball guys House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), and Reps. Andre Carson (D-Ind.), Joseph Crowley (D-N.Y.), Bruce Braley (D-Iowa) and Joe Courtney (D-Conn.), you may want to re-visit the gift rules.

Except Braley, each of these Congressmen has a home state team in either the NBA Playoffs, the NHL Playoffs, or both (while Maryland doesn’t have a hockey team, the Caps’ broadcast ratings in Maryland, and the number of Maryland fans is high for the neighboring district team, so we’ll let Hoyer slide by claiming Caps fan constituency).

It is okay to give the following gifts to any of these Congressmen (or others) without fear of reproach:

  • A baseball cap with the logo of the Congressman’s favorite team – a baseball cap is considered of nominal value, and is therefore an acceptable gift.  T-shirts are also acceptable, even if the actual value of the t-shirt or baseball cap exceeds $10, these items are considered “gifts under $10.”
  • “2011 Championship season” commemorative team books – books, publications, and software are permitted as long as they are sent to the Member’s office, do not require specialized reporting service, and are not sent for the Member’s unrestricted use.   The Member should display the book in the office.   These are not permissible under the home state exemption, unless the books are produced within the Member’s state (not likely).

Obviously, if there is a history of personal friendship around being lifelong Chicago Bulls fans, gifts are unrestricted under the personal friendship exemption, as long as the cost of the gift is not reimbursed by the employer.

We would steer clear of giving tickets to any games to Members or spouses, unless the personal friendship or Relative exemptions apply.

Tuesday Ethics Tip: New Year’s Eve Fundraisers

Tuesday, December 28th, 2010 by Vbhotla

New Year’s Eve provides a good fundraiser occasion.  Virtually no one wants to sit at home, and people are willing to pay to see and be seen as the ball drops on Times Square.

The gift rules for food and entertainment still apply to members of Congress and their staff at charity events and fundraisers.

For charity and political fundraisers, the value of a ticket for Congressional members is the cost of the meal. Note that invitations should come from the event sponsor and not a lobbyist who is buying a ticket from the sponsor to give to the Member.

Other rules of thumb for charity and political fundraisers:

  • When listing Congressmen as honorary hosts, make sure that if a member of the House, other non-House members are also listed as honorary hosts.
  • Representatives from the House can neither be honored nor offered an exclusive ceremonial role not offered to others; Senators may be honored if the title as Senator is excluded and the charity is not receiving any money from a lobbying entities earmarked for the event.
  • Invitations must come from the organization, not individual lobbyists.
  • Meals are allowed.
  • Entertainment can be provided, as long as it is offered to all attendees.  VIP sessions for the member/staffer are not permissible.
  • No tangible gift or goodie bags may be provided.