Ethics: Advisory Opinion No. 2000-19

Advisory Opinion No. 2000-19
Advisory Opinion No. 2000-19

Application Of The Lobbyist Code’s Gift Restrictions And Reporting Requirements To Expenditures Made At The National Political Conventions

The State Ethics Commission has been asked whether expenditures for food and drink or entertainment at the two major party national conventions are subject to The Code Of Ethics For Lobbyists’ gift restrictions and reporting requirements under the following circumstances:

  1. The expenditures were made directly by a lobbyist registered in Connecticut.
  2. The expenditures were made by a national association or national business entity having a branch or subsidiary, respectively, registered as a lobbyist in Connecticut.
  3. The expenditures were made by one of the national party committees hosting the convention utilizing funds solicited, in part, from lobbyists registered in Connecticut with the explicit understanding that the funds would be used to underwrite a specific event at which Connecticut public officials would be present.
  4. The expenditures were made by one of the national party committees hosting the convention utilizing funds solicited from various corporations, including corporate entities registered as lobbyists in Connecticut. The funds in question were solicited to underwrite the general costs of staging the convention, and were not tied to or earmarked for any specific event.
  5. The Lobbyist Code’s gift restrictions and reporting requirements (and the concomitant gift restrictions set forth in The Code Of Ethics For Public Officials) apply whether the expenditures are made in or outside of Connecticut and whether the purpose of the event is in furtherance of or unrelated to lobbying. Consequently, any such expenditure for the benefit of a Connecticut public official, state employee or candidate for public office, or a member of any such person’s staff or immediate family, made by a Connecticut lobbyist at a national political convention is subject to the Code’s gift restrictions. Conn. Gen. Stat. 1-84(j), and 1-97(a). Additionally, any such expenditure for the benefit of a Connecticut public official in the legislative or executive branch, or a member of such official’s staff or immediate family, above the applicable limits is subject to the Lobbyist Code’s itemized reporting requirements. Conn. Gen. Stat. 1-96(b) & (e).
  6. The Lobbyist Code’s gift restrictions apply not only to expenditures made by a "registrant" (i.e., a lobbyist) but also to expenditures made by "anyone acting on behalf of a registrant" Conn. Gen. Stat. 1-97(a). Consequently, absent explicit facts to the contrary, such expenditures made by a national association or a national business entity will be attributed to their Connecticut branch or subsidiary. See, State Ethics Commission Advisory Opinion No. 89-34 51Conn. L. J. No. 27, p. 1C (January 2, 1990): A parent corporation registrant may not use its non-registrant subsidiary to make an otherwise prohibited gift.
  7. When a Connecticut lobbyist provides funds to another entity with the explicit understanding that the monies will be used to underwrite an event at which Connecticut officials will be in attendance, the expenditures will be subject to the Lobbyist Code’s gift restrictions and reporting requirements. See, Advisory Opinion No. 89-34: Making expenditures for the benefit of public officials via a pass-through entity could be used as a way to avoid the Code. Therefore, if a registrant makes a contribution which is earmarked for a specific event and the registrant knows that public officials will be in attendance, the registrant has made an expenditure for the benefit of a public official.
  8. Under the circumstances presented, these expenditures are beyond the purview of the State Ethics Commission. Simply stated, the linkage between general contributions from a Connecticut lobbyist to a national political committee and the subsequent usage of a portion of these monies to entertain Connecticut officials at a national convention is too attenuated to trigger the Code’s gift restrictions and reporting requirements. It can be argued, with a certain persuasiveness, that this holding allows both lobbyists and public officials to circumvent the requirements of the Ethics Codes. To the extent this is true, however, such a result is a function of our nation’s current campaign finance laws; and, hence, beyond this Commission’s ability to redress.

Similarly, it has been brought to the Commission’s attention that since the 1997 enactment of the Codes’ current benefit limitations, Connecticut campaign contributions, solicited by or on behalf of public officials and donated, in part, by lobbyists, have allegedly been utilized to purchase food and drink that would otherwise be prohibited under the Ethics Statutes. Again, if true, any such activity is a result of Connecticut’s campaign finance statutes which allow the purchase of "meals" for "the candidate", "the candidate’s spouse" and "campaign or committee workers" incident to political or campaign purposes, without the strict dollar limits (fifty dollars per person per year) or itemized disclosure of beneficiaries required under the Ethics Codes. See, Conn. Gen. Stat. 9-333i(g)(2). Consequently, if such expenditures are taking place, it is beyond the State Ethics Commission’s jurisdiction to prohibit or regulate the conduct in question.

By order of the Commission,

Rosemary Giuliano,
Chairperson  


Content Last Modified on 9/7/2005 8:03:24 AM