June 2, 2011 •
Ask the Experts – A Question about Gift Laws and Upcoming Conferences
Q. Summer is approaching and I will be attending conferences such as NCSL and ALEC. Can I pay for dinners with legislators and/or State Night events?
A. First and foremost, are you or your company registered to lobby in the state? Most states have more stringent gift laws applicable to lobbyists and lobbyist principals (Texas is the exception to this rule of thumb). The answer will also vary depending upon whether you are paying for a private dinner or sponsoring a State Night event. For example, taking a legislator to dinner, paying for cab fare or other transportation, or giving him a ticket to a ballgame are not considered part of the national conference agenda. Therefore, the normal gift limits will apply.
Many states have gift limit exceptions specifically carved out for expenditures at national conferences to which all members of the legislature are invited. State Night events are considered part of the conference agenda; therefore the gift limit exceptions will apply.
Although a State Night sponsorship may be permissible, it is important to determine if and when the expenditure must be disclosed. The reporting implications for such events range from simple aggregate disclosure to detailed reporting where the name of every legislator attending must be listed.
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