Ethics: Advisory Opinion No. 2001-11

Advisory Opinion No. 2001-11
Advisory Opinion No. 2001-11

Application Of The Lobbyist Code’s Gift Limits And Reporting
Requirements To A Municipal Client

The State Ethics Commission has been asked whether and how the gift limitations and reporting requirements of The Code Of Ethics For Lobbyists apply to a municipality represented at the General Assembly by a lobbyist business organization. Specifically, the Commission was asked what were the legal ramifications, under the Lobbyist Code, if the municipality or its representative (e.g., the mayor) makes an expenditure for the benefit of a legislator (e.g. by providing a meal or paying for a round of golf).

Pursuant to Conn. Gen. Stat. 1-91(l)(1), exempt from the definition of "Lobbyist" are municipalities and their elected or appointed officials, when acting within the scope of their authority or employment. As a consequence, the Code’s strict benefit limits (i.e., no gift over $10 and meals restricted to a total of $50 per person per year) do not apply to benefits provided by the municipality or the mayor. For the same reason, the Code’s requirements to report and itemize such expenditures over $10 per person per event do not apply. (Parenthetically, it should be noted that the municipality and the mayor would also fall outside of the Public Official Code provision which establishes a parallel limitation on gifts to a public official or state employee from: a person doing business with or seeking business from the individual’s department or agency; or engaging in activities regulated by the individual’s department or agency. Conn. Gen. Stat. 1-84(m)).

In contrast, if the lobbyist business organization makes the expenditure on behalf of the municipal client, the Code’s gift restrictions and reporting requirements apply in full. In fact, when the business organization represents a non-registered municipality it assumes increased reporting responsibilities, disclosing its compensation and any expenditures for the benefit of a public official utilizing the Code’s client reporting schedule (which requires both interim monthly reports during the legislative session and quarterly reports throughout the year). Conn. Gen. Stat. 1-96(a) and Regulations of Conn. State Agencies 1-92-50(d).

Finally, although, in this instance, the municipality and the mayor are exempt form the Code’s gift restrictions, the Commission has previously ruled that it constitutes an inappropriate use of office, in violation of Conn. Gen. Stat. 1-84(c), when a public official receives excessive benefits from a non-registered donor, if the benefits are bestowed by virtue of the individual’s state position. Advisory Opinion No. 92-5, 53 CLJ 38, p. 9C (3/17/92). As a consequence, the Commission established an alternative benefit limit for such circumstances based on the deminimis standard set forth in the Commission’s Regulations. Regulations of Conn. State Agencies 1-81-30(a);.and Advisory Opinion No. 98-9, 59 CLJ 45, p 5D (5/5/98). Specifically, under that standard, benefits provided to a state servant because of his or her official position are limited to $100 per person per year from any one source. Therefore, if the municipality or its mayor are providing benefits to a legislator in furtherance of lobbying efforts (or otherwise because of the legislator’s state position) the $100 annual limit will apply.

By order of the Commission,

Rosemary Giuliano

Content Last Modified on 9/7/2005 8:03:54 AM