Ask the Experts – Lobbyists, Legislators, and Gift Laws - State and Federal Communications

October 23, 2013  •  

Ask the Experts – Lobbyists, Legislators, and Gift Laws

James WarnerQ. I am a registered lobbyist with a personal relationship with a state legislator.  I would like to give her a gift for a special occasion.  Is this permissible?

A. As a registered lobbyist, you should always be aware of the restrictions placed on you for providing things of value to a state official.  A number of jurisdictions have strict “no gift” laws in place.  Wisconsin prohibits a lobbyist from providing things of pecuniary value to a legislator with very limited exceptions.

A gift can be permissible based on the personal relationship between the lobbyist and the legislator.  Texas and Florida allow gifts between a registered lobbyist and a legislator if they are related to a certain degree.  Please note that jurisdictions can examine the circumstances of the gift such as the extent of the relationship between the lobbyist and the legislator.  The lack of a history of gift giving between the parties or evidence of a personal relationship may render the gift impermissible.  The federal “friendship” exception also does not apply to state and local jurisdictions.

A registered lobbyist may be allowed to give a gift based on the special occasion or reasoning behind it.  In Massachusetts, a lobbyist may give a legislator gifts on certain occasions of religious or personal significance.  Connecticut allows gifts for certain major life events.  Be sure to confirm if any occasions are excluded.  Massachusetts does not consider a birthday to be an occasion of personal significance!

A gift may not be prohibited even if you are a registered lobbyist.  Confirm whether an intended gift is permissible with your state’s ethics office.

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