Tuesday Ethics Tip: Executive Branch Edition

D.C. is abuzz with President Obama’s nomination of Solicitor General Elena Kagan to the U.S. Supreme Court. ¬†As she is currently a member of the Executive Branch, any attempts to wine or dine her in the days and weeks leading up to the Senate’s confirmation hearings must fall safely under the Executive Branch gift and ethics rules.

So let’s take a look at some of those ethics / gift rules:

General rule: “prohibited sources” (those with business before the particular agency) may not give a gift (or gifts) to agency employees. Executive branch employees may not supplement their income in any way, and are subject to certain limits on de minimis gifts or entertainment.

  • there is a $20 aggregate limit per occasion
  • there is a $50 aggregate limit per year
  • other particular exceptions (e.g. widely attended gatherings, modest items of food and refreshment, opportunities and benefits that are generally available to the public, etc.), may be applied if all the necessary factors are in place (see the Office of Government Ethics for additional, complete information on this topic)

Political appointees within President Obama’s administration are also under an additional Executive Order that restricts gifts they can accept. Political appointees (of which Ms. Kagan is one), may not accept gifts from lobbyists. These political appointees may NOT use certain gift rule exceptions which are in place for other types of executive branch employees (see above, and the OGE’s site). Political appointees may not accept a meal, attendance, or entertainment at a lobbyist-sponsored event.

Political appointees in President Obama’s administration have also signed a pledge not to become lobbyists after their service in government.

The information in this post is condensed from Lobbyists.info’s Compliance Center. This ethics tip is accurate to the best of our knowledge, but please consult your counsel on specific questions.

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