Ethics: Advisory Opinion No. 1998-22

Advisory Opinion No. 1998-22
Advisory Opinion No. 1998-22

Application Of The Gift Ban To Staff Of Candidates For Public Office

The Ethics Codes’ Lobbyist Gift Ban applies to any "…public official, state employee or candidate for public office, or a member of any such person’s staff or immediate family…" Conn. Gen. Stat. 1-84(j), 1-97(a). The Ethics Commission has been asked: 1. whether the words "any such person’s staff" modify "candidate for public office"; and 2. if so, what positions would be considered to fall within the parameters of the statute?

1. Clearly, the words "any such person’s staff" refer to all the categories of persons previously enumerated in the statutory provisions at issue: i.e., public officials, state employees, or candidates for public office.

2. In response to a request for their views on the matter, the President Pro Tempore and Majority Leader of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives have provided the following analysis:

For purposes of Conn. Gen. Stat. 1-84(j) and 1-97(a), the term staff of a candidate for public office should be limited to include only those paid staff who are under the authority of and report to the candidate.

In essence, the legislative leaders assert that inclusion of unpaid volunteers (e.g., campaign treasurers), paid hourly workers (e.g., phone solicitors), or independent contractors (e.g., pollsters) would go beyond legislative intent. Additionally, the Leaders note that application of the Gift Ban to such individuals is both unnecessary and impractical; and would place the candidate in the untenable position of having to monitor the conduct of numerous individuals, many of whom had only peripheral involvement with the campaign.

The State Ethics Commission concurs with this proposed resolution. To date, there exists no evidence that lobbyist gifts to such individuals constitute a problem which needs to be addressed under the Ethics Codes. Therefore, the Commission hereby rules that only paid staff who report to the candidate are subject to the Code’s Lobbyist Gift Ban.

By order of the Commission,

Stanley Burdick

Content Last Modified on 9/7/2005 8:02:27 AM