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Go Ahead and Offer the Senator a Cup of Coffee - Senate Gift Rules Don't Require You to Be Rude, Just Stingy


Guidance issued earlier this month by the Senate Select Committee on Ethics clarifies that, under the exception for items of little intrinsic value (Rule 35.1(c)(23)), baseball caps, T-shirts, and greeting cards may be accepted by Senators and staff members so long as they have a “reasonable value,” even if worth more than $10.00. The exception also encompasses all other non-perishables, food, flowers, and other perishables that are “brought, sent or delivered” to the Senator’s office and “are not taken as part of a meal,” so long as their value, in the aggregate, does not exceed $10.00. The new guidance also clarifies that the exception for “[f]ood or refreshments of nominal value offered other than as part of a meal” (Rule 35.1(c)(22)) includes hors d’oeuvres, drinks, or a continental-style breakfast served at a reception, briefing, organized event, media interview, or other appearance where such items are commonly provided. (The new guidance fails to clarify one’s obligations, however, if the profile of a reception calls for caviar and high-priced champagne.) These exceptions are of particular importance for organizations that employ or retain lobbyists. Under HLOGA congressional members and staff generally are prohibited from accepting items of value from such entities. To view the new guidance go to
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