Advisory Opinion No. 2004-10
The Codes Charitable Event Gift Exception
To The National Political
national political conventions taking place this summer, the State Ethics Commission
has received inquiries regarding the legality, under the Codes of Ethics, of
the following event.
corporation registered as a lobbyist in Connecticut,
is planning to hold a concert at the Republican National Convention in New
York City. The
concert is to be conducted as a charitable event, with Camp
Sunshine of Decatur
Georgia, which provides
programs for children with cancer, listed as the sponsor. AFLAC has committed $100,000 to underwrite
the concert and is soliciting additional contributions of from $2,500 to
$100,000 from various donors. Donors
will receive concert tickets and other benefits in return for their
contributions. The net proceeds from the
event will go to Camp Sunshine.
these facts, the Commission has been asked whether, and if so under what
circumstances, Connecticut public
officials, state employees and members of their immediate families could accept
free tickets to the concert.
threshold issue, it is necessary to recognize that the Codes gift provisions
contain no exemption, explicit or otherwise, for events conducted at the
national conventions. Therefore, for
free attendance at such an event to be permissible under Connecticuts Ethics
Law the event must either: (1) fall
within the statutory annual limits for gifts and meals (ten dollars and fifty
dollars respectively), if provided by a regulated donor; (2) qualify for
another exemption to the gift ban; or (3) total less than one hundred dollars
if provided by virtue of ones official position by a nonregulated
donor (i.e., a person not registered as a lobbyist; not regulated
by ones agency and not doing business with or seeking business from ones
instance, the concert ticket price will be above the allowable statutory
limits, whether provided by a regulated or non-regulated donor. Specifically, based on information provided
by AFLAC, the cost of a general admission ticket is in excess of $800.00. The portion of this amount which will be
contributed to charity has not yet been determined. Therefore, for free admission to be
permissible, another gift exception must apply.
Specifically, exempt under Conn. Gen. Stat. §§1-79(e)(14) and
1-91(g)(14) is Admission to a charitable or civic event, including food and
beverage provided at such event, but excluding lodging or travel expenses, at
which a public official or state employee participates in his official
capacity, provided such admission is provided by the primary sponsoring
exception to apply to the event in question, certain
criteria must be met and certain limitations followed:
public official or state employee must be invited to participate in his
official capacity. To qualify under the
statutory requirement, the state servant must be directly invited because of
his or her state position or indirectly invited as a convention delegate
selected by virtue of ones state position.
Under this limited admission/food and drink exception, the participation
component of the provision is met by ones attendance at the charitable
event. See, e.g.,
State Ethics Commission Advisory Opinion No. 98-10 59 CLJ 45, p. 6D (5/5/98) wherein the Commission held
that a public officials participation in a charity golf tournament, without
any additional official involvement, qualified for the exception. (In contrast, to qualify for the receipt of
necessary expenses, including travel and lodging, pursuant to Conn. Gen. Stat.
§1-84(k), the officials participation must include substantive activities such
as a speech or panel presentation.)
Lastly, by its terms, the exception applies only to the public official
or state employee and does not extend to immediate family members.
pursuant to statute, the exemption applies only if admission is provided by
the primary sponsoring entity.
Therefore, for a Connecticut
public official or state employee to accept free admission to the concert in question, said admission must be provided by Camp
Sunshine. Neither AFLAC nor any other corporate sponsor
subject to Connecticuts gift ban
(Conn. Gen. Stat. §§1-84(j) and (m)) may utilize the exception, nor may such
entity direct Camp Sunshine
to invite a Connecticut state
the exception permits only acceptance of admission to the event and food and
beverage. Therefore, if any tangible
gifts are provided with a fair market value of over ten dollars, such items
must be declined or the recipient must pay said fair market value.
4. Finally, the Ethics Code would not prevent a Connecticut
public official, state employee or member of their staff or immediate family
from paying to attend the event in question.
In doing so, the purchaser, consistent with the Code and Commission
regulations, need only pay for the benefits that are directly and personally
received. See definition of gift; Conn. Gen. Stat.
§1-79(e) and Regulations of Conn. State Agencies §1-92-54. Therefore, if a donor wishes to give a ticket
to the event to a Connecticut public official or state employee, or a staff or
family member of such an official or employee, the recipient may accept the
ticket if he or she pays the portion of the ticket that correlates to the
amount that he or she directly and personally receives over and above the gift
limit applicable to the category of donor (i.e., ten dollars for
regulated donors and one hundred dollars for unregulated donors).
In determining the amount the
recipient must pay to reimburse the donor, one would take the total ticket
price and subtract out the charitable portion (presumably paid for by the donor). Additionally, the recipient may subtract out
the cost of items statutorily exempt from the definition of Gift, such as
food and drink (up to fifty dollars per person if no other such benefits were
received from that donor during the year) and tangible items (up to ten dollars
per item up to fifty dollars per year).