December 4, 2014 •
House Ethics Committee Issues Holiday Gift Guidance
Today, the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Ethics released a reminder for its members and staff about the propriety of accepting holiday gifts.
Holiday Guidance on the Gift Rule, an eight-page memorandum on House Rule 25, points out some of the restrictions, including reminders on how to handle certain types of situations such as attending a holiday reception at a lobbying firm.
In such a situation, attendance is allowed as long as “the food and refreshments are of ‘nominal value’ and offered ‘other than as part of a meal.’”
Should a representative or staff member be offered a gift card or certificate, the memorandum reminds them these items are considered the same as cash; therefore, they cannot be accepted under any gift exception. The communication also reminds members and staff how they must handle unacceptable gifts, how to seek written committee approval in some circumstances, and which financial disclosure requirements may be necessary.
In a seasonal flair, the memorandum ends with a whimsical poem entitled The House Gift Rule: A Rhyme for the Holidays. The poem includes stanzas such as the following:
Gifts worth less than 50 dollars really aren’t scary,
Unless there’s a lobbyist, you can make merry.
But beware! This exception requires you to know
That the donor’s permitted before pulling that bow.
Receptions are gifts but are permitted if they,
Aren’t a meal, regardless if served from a tray.
The exception requires that food value be nominal,
So no caviar, no matter, whether phenomenal.
State and Federal Communications, Inc. provides research and consulting services for government relations professionals on lobbying laws, procurement lobbying laws, political contribution laws in the United States and Canada. Learn more by visiting stateandfed.com.