Ethics: Advisory Opinion No. 1998-33

Advisory Opinion No. 1998-33
Advisory Opinion No. 1998-33

Definition of a Legislative Reception For Purposes of the Gift Rule Exception

Pursuant to both the Code of Ethics for Public Officials and the Code of Ethics for Lobbyists, an exception to the definition of a "Gift" includes "food or beverage or both, costing less than fifty dollars per person and consumed at a publicly noticed legislative reception to which all members of the General Assembly are invited and which is hosted not more than once in any calendar year by a lobbyist or business organization". Conn. Gen. Stat. 1-79(e)(10), 1-91(g)(10). A business organization is planning to hold its annual holiday party. The organization will be inviting clients, employees, business associates, as well as all members of the General Assembly. Commission Attorney Catherine Nasto has asked whether such an occasion qualifies as a "legislative reception" as that term is used in the exception to the gift definition.

Given the strict limitations on the provision and acceptance of food and/or beverage contained in the Codes of Ethics (fifty dollars per recipient per calendar year), it was determined that an additional exception was necessary in order to allow lobbyist groups to hold legislative receptions without causing these groups to exhaust their annual food and beverage limits. In this way, a lobbyist group could host a reception in order to educate and interact with all members of the General Assembly regarding issues relevant to the organization, while still maintaining its ability to modestly entertain individual members as needed during the calendar year.

The threshold requirement, however, for utilizing the exception in question is that it indeed be a legislative reception. The fact that it must be publicly noticed, cost less than fifty dollars per person, and all members be invited are merely additional qualifying requirements. Although the lobbyist business organization may view the occasion of its holiday party as an opportunity for its employees and clients to interact with various public officials, it is not the primary purpose for holding the event. A lobbyist group may not publicly notice a party and invite all members of the General Assembly as a means to use the exception provided in the Code, when such an event is not primarily held for a legislative purpose. Therefore, in this instance, the business organization hosting the party may invite members of the General Assembly, but will need to keep the cost within the annual limits for food and/or beverage for the calendar year for any public official, state employee, or immediate family member of such official or employee, who attends.

By order of the Commission,

Stanley Burdick,

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