Ethics: Advisory Opinion No. 1996-8

Advisory Opinion No. 1996-8
Advisory Opinion No. 1996-8

Valuation Of Reportable Lobbyist Expenditures
For Legislative Receptions

On behalf of a registered lobbyist, State Ethics Commission Attorney Marianne Smith has asked the Commission how to value lobbyist expenditures made for legislative receptions.  Specifically, the lobbyist has inquired whether amounts not directly and personally received at such receptions are to be included when reporting itemized expenditures for the benefit of a public official, or member of that official’s staff or immediate family.

Under the general reporting requirements of the Code of Ethics for Lobbyists, Conn. Gen. Stat. Chapter 10, Part II, a lobbyist’s disclosure reports must include “ itemized statement of each expenditure of ten dollars or more per person for each occasion made by the reporting registrant for the benefit of a public official in the legislative or executive branch, a member of his staff or immediate family, itemized by date, beneficiary, amount and circumstances of the transaction.”   Conn. Gen. Stat. 1-96(e).  When, however, the event is a publicly noticed legislative reception, costing less than fifty dollars per person, to which all members of the General Assembly have been invited, the itemization threshold is twenty dollars.

Under the Code’s closely related, but distinct, gift restrictions, a “Gift” is anything of value “...which is directly and personally received ...”  Conn. Gen. Stat. 1-91(g).  For purposes of implementing this statutory language, the Commission has adopted regulations which specifically exempt from the value of food and beverage provided at a reception or party “…overhead costs such as in-house planning costs, invitations, rental fees, and decorations…”  Regulations of Conn. State Agencies 1-92-54(b).

While these regulations reference only gift valuation, not lobbyist financial disclosure, it would be anomalous indeed to require lobbyist itemization of benefits that had not been directly and personally received.  Such an interpretation would produce public disclosure records which inaccurately state the actual benefits received by the reportable official, staff or family member.  As a consequence, in certain instances anyone reviewing the reports would be incorrectly led to conclude that the Codes’ applicable gift limits had been illegally exceeded when, in fact, no such violation has occurred.

Therefore, the State Ethics Commission rules that, in reporting itemizable legislative receptions, lobbyists should disclose only the dollar value of the benefits which have been directly and personally received.  It should be remember, however, that client lobbyists must include all ancillary costs (e.g., overhead) when disclosing aggregate entertainment on their periodic financial reports.  Conn. Gen. Stat. 1-96(e); Regulations of Conn. State Agencies 1-92-49(a)(4).

By order of the Commission,

David T. Nassef

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