Congressional Gift Rules, What to Know

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​​Associations and their members work with Congress on a regular basis. However, a simple offer to provide tickets to a sporting event or a nice bottle of wine around the holidays could have unintended consequences. Make sure you have a general knowledge of the rules to mitigate any potential problems that may arise through the course of business.

A summary of the House gift rule can be found here. The rule provides the following provision on acceptable gifts, and 23 other provisions that describe additional gift situations.

  • A Member, officer, or employee may not accept a gift from a registered lobbyist, agent, or a foreign principal or private entity that retains or employs such individuals. Definitions of the terms registered lobbyist and agent of a foreign principal are provided under “Definitions of Registered Lobbyist and Agent of a Foreign Principal.” Specifically number 22.
  • A Member, officer, or employee may accept from any other source virtually any gift valued below $50, with a limitation of less than $100 in gifts from any single source in a calendar year. Gifts having a value of less than $10 do not count toward the annual limit.
  • The other 23 categories of acceptable gifts are descriptive categories, not tied to any specific dollar figure. A few of the categories are informational materials, commemorative items, and free attendance at certain kinds of events.

A summary of the Senate gifts rule can be found here. Below are a few points to keep in mind.

  • No Member, officer, or employee shall knowingly accept a gift except as provided by the gifts rule.
  • A Member, officer, or employee may accept a gift, other than cash or cash equivalent, having a value of less than $50, provided that the source of the gift is not a registered lobbyist, foreign agent, or private entity that retains or employs such individuals. The cumulative value of gifts that may be accepted from any one source in a calendar year must be less than $100. Generally, gifts having a value of less than $10 do not count toward the annual limit. See Senate Rule 35.1(a).

To avoid potential problems, organizations and their members should review the general rules and know the constraints and limits of the Congress members they work with. For more information, visit the sites mentioned above or contact Aronson’s Nonprofit and Association Industry Services Group at 301.231.6200.

About Craig Stevens

Craig Stevens has written 80 post in this blog.

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