Ethics: Advisory Opinion No. 1999-2

Advisory Opinion No. 1999-2
Advisory Opinion No. 1999-2

Application Of The Codes’ Gift And Necessary Expense Provisions
To A Legislator’s Attendance At A Lobbyist Association’s Annual Conference

The Commission has been asked how the Ethics Codes’ Gift Law would apply to the following hypothetical event:

A registered lobbyist Association hosts an annual meeting. The primary purpose of the event is to educate association members and other interested parties regarding issues of import to the organization. A typical session will present speakers and panel discussions concerning such topics as long-range economic planning, the environmental impact of development, and the relationship of tax policy to job growth. A conference registration fee ($125) is charged, covering the cost of the speakers and the Association’s annual dinner ($75). Traditionally, members of the General Assembly have been invited to attend the conference, both as speakers and as audience members.

It is unarguable that the Code Of Ethics For Public Officials’ "Necessary expenses" provision would allow a legislator/speaker or panel member to accept free conference registration, including the annual dinner. See, Conn. Gen. Stats. 1-79 (q) and 1-84 (k). On the other hand, it has been the Commission’s consistent position that one’s mere presence at an event would not qualify for a statutory "Necessary expense".

Nonetheless, an exception to the Codes’ Gift Ban, i.e., "Gifts to the State", would permit a legislator/audience member to attend such an event, including the dinner, without payment of the registration fee. Specifically, this exemption allows the acceptance of benefits including "Goods or services…to support an event or the participation by a public official or state employee at an event…which facilitates state action or functions." Conn. Gen. Stat. 1-79(e)(5) and 1-91(g)(5). Under this provision, as long as the event is educational in nature and relevant to the official/employee’s state duties, the Commission will sanction receipt of free conference registration, including any meal held as an integral part of the proceedings.

By order of the Commission,

Stanley Burdick,

Content Last Modified on 9/7/2005 8:02:57 AM