Weddings, baby showers and graduation parties. What is a lobbyist to do?

an excerpt from the Lobbying Compliance Handbook

June seems to be the month where everyone is holding bridal showers and baby showers, and the full complement of high school and college graduations are also in full force. Lobbyists should be cautious when deciding whether to give a particular gift.

In addition to food, drinks, travel, and lodging, there are occasions when people want to give tangible gifts to Members and staffers — and sometimes those who want to give gifts are lobbyists and the organizations and associations that employ or retain them. The $49.99/$99.99 allowance — in place before the enactment of HLOGA — still applies to non-lobbyists, and in certain instances, the organization or company that employs or retains the lobbyists. However, HLOGA included a gift ban that applies to every individual lobbyist and every lobbying firm.

General rule on gifts: Lobbyists and entities that employ or retain lobbyists (and registered foreign agents) may not pay for or give any gift to a Member of Congress or a Congressional staffer. For purposes of the gift rule, an entity that employs or retains lobbyists to represent only the organization’s interests will not be considered a lobbyist.

Type of Gift Factors Allowing Gift
Special occasions:  Weddings, Anniversaries, Babies, Graduations -General Waiver: Advance written request from Member/staffer for general waiver for gifts for wedding or birth of a baby (not public)-If no advance waiver, must obtain specific waiver for specific gifts (public)-If valued at more than $335, must be disclosed on personal financial disclosure report-Waiver may be requested on case-by-case basis for significant anniversaries and graduations
Gifts to Spouses or relatives of Members/staffers Gifts to spouses or relatives of Members and staff may not be accepted if given to circumvent the prohibitions on gifts to Members and staffers

Tangible gifts to Members and staffers from sources other than lobbyists still fall within the $49.99 gift limit, with no acceptable gifts from a single source in a calendar year valued in excess of $99.99. �

An entity that employs or retains lobbyists only to lobby for its own interests is, for purposes of the gift rules, not itself a lobbyist. That means that a corporation that employs or retains a lobbyist could pay for and send flowers to a Member’s office congratulating him on his new baby, but the individual lobbyist or a lobbying firm could not. To be perfectly safe, don’t send a gift and don’t send flowers. Send a card.

Click here to learn more about the Lobbying Compliance Handbook.

July 1 marks the release of the 2010 edition of the handbook with an all new chapter on capaign finance reform. Pre-order your copy today!

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