Ethics: Advisory Opinion No. 1996-6

Advisory Opinion No. 1996-6
Advisory Opinion No. 1996-6

Post-State Employment Restrictions
On The Fostering Of Goodwill

A former executive branch state employee has accepted employment with a lobbyist organization which represents various client lobbyists.  As part of the individual’s job duties, he will be expected to attend certain receptions or sporting events in order to foster goodwill with various public officials.  Alan S. Plofsky, Executive Director and General Counsel of the State Ethics Commission, has asked how the one-year ban on appearing before one’s former agency should apply if individuals from the lobbyist’s former agency are also in attendance.

Conn. Gen. Stat. 1-84b(b) prohibits a former executive branch public official or state employee, for one year after leaving state service, from representing anyone, other than the state, for compensation before the agency in which he served at the time of his termination of service, concerning any matter in which the state has a substantial interest.  Therefore, for the provision to apply, not only must the individual be engaged in compensated representation but it must also be an activity in which the state has a substantial interest.

The state has a substantial interest in a matter whenever the finances, health, safety, or welfare of the State or one or more of its citizens will be substantively affected by the outcome.  Cf. Regulations of State Agencies, Sec. 1-81-35 (“substantial interest” defined for purposes of 1-84b(a)).  The Legislature has determined that the State has a substantial interest in lobbying activities when it required the registration of lobbyists and disclosure of lobbying expenditures.  See Code of Ethics for Lobbyists, Chapter 10, Part II, Connecticut General Statutes.

The Commission has previously ruled that activities and expenditures which foster good will between lobbyists and public officials, even if such activities are social occasions, are in furtherance of lobbying, unless the activity is clearly personal and unrelated to any lobbying purpose.  See Advisory Opinion No. 93-14, 55 Conn. L.J. No. 4, p. 3E (July 27, 1993).  The Commission also ruled that, in general, only an unreimbursed expenditure made by an individual could be a personal, nonlobbying expense and rarely could this exception be allowed for a business entity.  Advisory Opinion No. 94-19, 56 Conn. L.J. No. 12, p. 7C (September 20, 1994).

When engaging in lobbying activities, the individual will be discussing specific issues on behalf of his clients.  As discussed above, the State has a substantial interest in such lobbying activity.  Therefore, the individual may, under no circumstances, engage in direct lobbying activities on behalf of any of his clients before any colleagues from his former agency for one year.  This prohibition is applicable even if the lobbying is conducted in a purely social setting.

Alternatively, the individual will not be in violation of the post-state employment rules, if he attends events such as social occasions or business receptions at which his former colleagues are also present and engages in conversations which are solely personal and unrelated to any lobbying matters.  This exception is allowed only when the individual has made a personal unreimbursed expenditure to be present.  Whenever the client lobbyist, however, either hosts the event or pays for the individual to be present as its representative, it will be deemed to be an expenditure to foster good will in furtherance of lobbying and the individual should not be in attendance.

Finally, it should be pointed out that the rules requiring a registered lobbyist to disclose expenditures of ten dollars or more for the benefit of a public official must still be followed.  See Conn. Gen. Stat. 1-96.  This is the case whether or not the expenditure is related or unrelated to lobbying.  The fact that the individual is in compliance with the post-state employment rules when meeting with a former colleague in a purely social setting does not relieve him of the responsibility to make such disclosures on his lobbyist financial reports.

By order of the Commission,

David T. Nassef

Content Last Modified on 9/7/2005 8:01:37 AM