Ethics: Advisory Opinion No. 2002-11

Advisory Opinion No. 2002-11
Advisory Opinion No. 2002-11

Application Of The Lobbyist Code’s Legislative Reception Exemption

The Administrative Director of the League of Women Voters of Connecticut, Inc. (the League), Mary A. Dean, has asked the State Ethics Commission for an advisory opinion regarding the application of the Lobbyist Code’s legislative reception exemptions.

These exceptions allow a registered lobbyist to host a publicly noticed legislative reception costing less than fifty dollars per person once each year. Conn. Gen. Stat. 1-91(g)(10) and (11). Under 1-91(g)(10) the reception qualifies as an exception to the Code’s gift limits if "all members of the General Assembly are invited." Additionally, under 1-91(g)(11) the reception similarly qualifies if "all members of the General Assembly from a region of the state are invited." Furthermore, under Conn. Gen. Stat. 1-96(e), a client lobbyist expenditure of ten dollars or more per reportable beneficiary (e.g., legislators) for food and drink must be itemized on the lobbyist’s periodic financial reports; but expenditures at qualifying legislative receptions need not be itemized unless the per person cost is thirty dollars or more

Ms. Dean has asked how these exemptions and related reporting requirements apply to the following facts. The League is a registered client lobbyist. Various regional and municipal entities, for example the League of Women Voters of East Shore (East Shore) are non-registered affiliates of the state League. Most of these local leagues host legislative breakfasts each year for their area’s legislators. While the majority of these events are under ten dollars per attendee, the East Shore League has hosted an event which exceeds this threshold.

The 1-91(g)(11) regional reception exemption was added to the "Gift" definition in 1997. See, Public Act 97-6 (June 18 Special Session). Included in the exemption is a definition of "Region of the state" as "the established geographic service area of the organization hosting the reception." Id.

During the legislative debate regarding this Act in the Senate, the Senate Chairperson of the Government Administration and Elections (GAE) Committee explained that this additional 1-91(g)(11) exception was meant to allow just one reception. The GAE Chairperson further explained that a statewide organization would only be able to host one such event and would be precluded from hosting multiple receptions since its established geographic service area would be the entire state. See, Senate Debate on Bill No. 8005, June 23, 1997 at p. 138, 140. Additionally, during the House debate on the Act, the House GAE Chairperson stated, for purposes of legislative intent, that under no circumstances could any group hold a series of regional events nor may it host two receptions, i.e., a regional event and a separate event to which all members were invited. See, House Debate on Bill No. 8005, June 20, 1997 at p. 214. See, also, State Ethics Commission Advisory Opinion No. 97-17, 59 CLJ 19, p. 5C (11/4/97).

Given this unequivocal legislative history, the answer to Ms. Dean’s question is clear: the East Shore League and the other local affiliates of the statewide League of Women Voters cannot qualify for the 1-91(g)(11) regional reception exemption. In making this holding, the Commission wishes to emphasize that the Lobbyist Code does not, thereby, preclude the events in question. To the contrary, under Conn. Gen. Stat. 1-91(g)(9), each lobbyist may, separate and distinct from the legislative reception exemptions, furnish up to fifty dollars in food and drink per recipient per year; provided a representative of the lobbyist is in attendance at the event and provided, pursuant to 1-96(e), that the expenditure is itemized if over ten dollars per person. Additionally, under Conn. Gen. Stat. 1-91(g)(16), each lobbyist may furnish any item to a recipient, with a value of not more than ten dollars; provided the aggregate value of all such items provided to a recipient under this subdivision is not more than fifty dollars in a year, and provided, pursuant to 1-96(e) and Commission Regulations, that such expenditures in furtherance of lobbying are reported in the aggregate.

By order of the Commission,

Rosemary Giuliano,

Content Last Modified on 9/7/2005 8:04:20 AM