Baseball season is upon us. From President Obama’s first pitch at Nationals Stadium, to escaping the dog days of summer with a little baseball stadium R&R, to October’s playoffs (maybe?), lobbyists must be careful when inviting their favorite members of Congress or Congressional staffers out to Nats games. (Or, for our other DC-sports fans, Capitols, D.C. United, or Wizards games. What did I forget? Shout it out).
Below is an abbreviated explanation of when you can or cannot invite someone to a sporting event.
Remember: The gift rule is that lobbyists or lobbying firms may not provide anything of value to a member of Congress or Congressional staffer.
Tickets and Events: Members and staff may be offered tickets to sporting events, concerts, and other types of events. The rules specify what may and may not be accepted and how such tickets are to be priced for purposes of personal payment by Members and staff.
How much does a Member or staffer have to pay for a ticket to a sporting event or concert? The price would differ depending on the source of the ticket and the amount (if any) on the ticket.
Source: The source of tickets is the entity or person who paid for the tickets. For example, if a lobbyist wants to take a Member or staffer to a ticketed event using tickets provided by his/her firm or company, he/she would not be the source of the tickets. In this case, the firm or company is the source, AND the personal friendship rule would not permit a Member or staffer to accompany a lobbyist date to an event using such a ticket. The individuals themselves would be required to pay the face value of the tickets to the firm or company in order for the tickets to be used.
Valuation: Generally speaking, all gifts are valued at their retail, not wholesale, value under the gift rules. Further, for tickets to sporting or other entertainment events, the rules provide specific guidance as to how to value tickets for purposes of Member/staff payment for their use. The general rule: Members and staff must pay market value for all gifts unless there is an applicable exception.
|Type of Ticketed Event||House||Senate|
|Athletic, sporting event – ticket with face value||Member/staffer pays face value, if identical to price available for tickets sold to the public
|Member/staffer pays face value, if identical to price available for tickets sold to the public|
|Athletic, sporting event – ticket with NO face value||Member/staffer pays highest individually-priced ticket for the event||Member/staffer pays highest individually-priced ticket for the event or may ask for Senate Ethics approval in advance of event to pay price of a comparable ticket to same event. Written and independently verifiable information (including seat location, parking, access to areas not open to the public, and the availability of food and refreshments) must be submitted to show that the ticket offered them is equivalent to another ticket that does have a face value|
|Event in a skybox with food, beverages, and/or parking||Member/staffer pays either face value or highest individually-priced ticket for the event plus the value/costs of food and parking in accordance with other gift rules and exceptions||See above|
This information is adapted from Lobbyists.info’s Compliance Center.