October 27, 2011 •
Here is your chance to “Ask the Experts” at State and Federal Communications, Inc.
Q: I am a registered lobbyist who would like to host a state legislator at a college football game. Are there specific restrictions to this type of gift?
A: The most common gift restrictions are those relating to food and beverage. Providing tickets or admission to a football game is a different type of gift, referred to as entertainment or hospitality.
Some jurisdictions do not restrict providing entertainment at all. Pennsylvania does not restrict a lobbyist providing hospitality to an official. However, Pennsylvania does require the lobbyist’s principal to report the gift of hospitality, even itemizing it if the aggregate of all gifts to the official is more than $650 in a calendar year.
Other jurisdictions allow a lobbyist to provide entertainment up to a certain amount. In Texas, a lobbyist may provide expenditures for entertainment of $500 or less in a calendar year. Ohio permits a lesser amount. Lobbyists may provide Ohio officials gifts worth an aggregate annual value of $75 or less. Like Pennsylvania, both Texas and Ohio require the gift to be reported.
Louisiana specifically prohibits providing tickets to sporting events except for a very narrow exception. Other jurisdictions do not specifically mention entertainment or hospitality, but generally restrict these gifts to officials. Though a big football state, Wisconsin generally prohibits all gifts to officials.
The question reinforces the idea that a lobbyist must understand all of a jurisdiction’s gift restrictions, not just those that pertain to food and beverage. When considering any dollar value limitation on entertainment or hospitality, be sure to consider the proper method to value the gift in that jurisdiction. For example, the cost of a football ticket for ethics purposes could be its face value or its fair market value.
You can directly submit questions for this feature, and we will select those most appropriate and answer them here. Send your questions to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
(We are always available to answer questions from clients that are specific to your needs, and we encourage you to continue to call or e-mail us with questions about your particular company or organization. As always, we will confidentially and directly provide answers or information you need.) Our replies to your questions are not legal advice. Instead, these replies represent our analysis of laws, rules, and regulations.
October 26, 2011 •
Coco Chanel said it best, “Imitation is the highest form of flattery.”
State and Federal Communications, and its predecessor State and Federal Associates, have been involved with lobbying compliance since 1976. You can imagine many others might try to duplicate our program but never have the resources or staff to implement the platinum type of service you currently receive from my highly trained in-house staff of 11 attorneys.
When I purchased my area of business from State and Federal Associates in 1993 and formed State and Federal Communications, Inc., we really were the only gig in town. As time goes on and as technology is easier, there are others—who have been clients or former employees—that feel a similar URL and a toll free number makes it easy to replicate. But don’t be fooled. There is only one true compliance company in Ohio and in this country and our reputation and our list of clients speak for themselves.
In government relations I have everyone down to two degrees of separation. In the case of competitors, it is only one because each has seen success and yearns for it. I don’t take it personally…it’s business. And, I assure you I take my business seriously and my relationship with my clients even more seriously. Your compliance needs have always been our absolute priority.
Thank you for the confidence you have in our services. We look forward to many, many more years together.
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.